- On Mimicry and Mimckers
- On Repetitions, Antonims, and Puns
- Mimicking Jargons, Inventing Languages
- On Bushes and Hedges
- Shakespeare's Jakobson: Elizabethan Addressers, Addresses, Codes, and Messages
Shakespeare, the author who has come to be considered the centre of the Western canon, has not had only supporters, fans, and followers in his four-century afterlife but also fierce detractors. Voltaire, Tolstoy, and Shaw were, at different historical moments, some of the greatest detractors of the Bard’s art. For them, Shakespeare’s writings were full of unacceptable flaws, and his art was no art at all but, as Voltaire notoriously put it in one of his letters, just ‘a heap of dung’. The history of Shakespeare reception is not just a history of incessant Bardolatry, but a never-ending debate about his merits and demerits; it is a debate of perpetually revived and recycled pros and cons. In ‘What Is Art?’ and ‘Shakespeare and Drama’, two long essays written toward the end of his life, Leo Tolstoy contended that the Bard’s plays were ‘beneath criticism, insignificant, empty, and immoral’, that they had ‘absolutely nothing in common with art or poetry’. One of Tolstoy’s allegations targeted the language spoken by Shakespeare’s characters:They all speak the same language (…). The words uttered by a character can be put into the mouth of any another character, because we can never distinguish one speaker from the other on the basis of language alone. Throughout the centuries many commentators of Shakespeare’s work have upheld the opposite view, namely, that Shakespeare’s characters are strongly individualised in terms of manners, language and behaviour. As early as 1662, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, a prolific poet, dramatist and essay writer as well as a pioneer of Shakespeare studies, praised Shakespeare for his extraordinary empathy manifest in his art of creating a great variety of characters:Shakespeare did not want wit to express to the life all sorts persons, of what quality, profession, degree, breeding or birth soever; nor did he want wit to express the diverse, and different humours or natures, or several passions in mankind; and so well hath he expressed in his plays all sorts of persons, as one would think he had been transformed into every one of those persons he hath described; and as sometimes one would think he was really himself the clown or jester he feigns, so one would think, he was the King and Privy Counsellor; also as one would think he were really the coward that he feigns, so one would think he were the most valiant and experienced soldier.