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Thread: Shakespeare

  1. #1
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    Shakespeare

    Is Shakespeare the greatest writer in any language?

  2. #2
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    The answer is obvious.

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    and it is no.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    and yes.
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    At a certain point it becomes impossible to compare writers by a universal standard, especially across language, medium (e.g. the epic vs. the play) and genre barriers. Moreover, we must ask ourselves in what manner of greatness are we measuring our writers. In terms of influence, the Gospel According to Matthew is "greater" than anything Shakespeare has ever written, though if I were stuck on an island I'd probably opt for Hamlet. In terms of proliferation, Proust, Tolstoy, Dickens, etc. all beat Shakespeare...Eventually one realizes that the question itself is pointless, since, after this point where we cannot compare our writers by a universal standard, it all boils down to preference; and to impose your preference on someone else is just stupid.
    Last edited by Cunninglinguist; 05-06-2011 at 05:02 PM.
    Dare to know

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    I'll follow a current trend here on the LitNet forums.

    I don't like Shakespeare, therefore he is horrible, and anyone who thinks he is great is a sap who has been duped by clueless academics who don't really know anything anyways.

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    His influence upon the language has been enromous. Not just the words and phrases he has added, but the regard of the language through the plays and sonnets. The economic effects help us in the UK each year. Comparisons are too crude, but he's certainly great.
    Last edited by Paulclem; 06-26-2011 at 06:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    I don't like Shakespeare, therefore he is horrible, and anyone who thinks he is great is a sap who has been duped by clueless academics who don't really know anything anyways.
    I guess I've been duped! And I'm not one to quickly jump to defend the academics... In any case, in my experience, if one doesn't like Shakespeare one doesn't understand him. If one likes Shakespeare one still probably doesn't understand him. Admittedly, he is difficult to appreciate in full because he was writing in such a different context, which most readers these days do not want to take the time to understand. But perhaps this is a testament to his greatness yet, for though he wrote in a time with such different conventions we still relate to his works.
    Dare to know

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    Registered User sonnet61's Avatar
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    ^I'm quite sure Mutatis was being facetious.

    As to the OP, I only know two languages so it's impossible for me to tell. I'm highly reluctant to state anyone as the best much less the best in any language. Then you're drawing from original texts, beauty of words we don't know, etc.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mutatis-Mutandi View Post
    I'll follow a current trend here on the LitNet forums.

    I don't like Shakespeare, therefore he is horrible, and anyone who thinks he is great is a sap who has been duped by clueless academics who don't really know anything anyways.
    Agreed!

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    Yes .

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    Liberate Babyguile's Avatar
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    Well, of course. I think his influence is unrivalled!
    'Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself,
    And so shall starve with feeding.'
    Volumnia in Coriolanus

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    Art is subjective. There can be no definitive 'greatest'; it's just a cheap catchword for undeveloped minds.

    And yes!

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    I tend to view literature as a matter of dialogue. For me, the greatest authors are those who know how to use in a skillful manner what has been done in the past, are paying attention to other skillful authors at their time, and opens the way for mimesis by later, also skillful, authors. Would there be shakespearean sonnets without a petrarch to define the term? I don't think so.

    Of course it's clear from my definition that Shakespeare was a great, skilled author. But where does the BEST literature comes from, then? I'd say from the human mind as a whole.

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    Quote Originally Posted by whitman View Post
    Is Shakespeare the greatest writer in any language?
    Only if you are english or american...original language of composition plays a big part. I have recently met a russian scholar, who is fluent in the language and literature of many countries, and we have had good discussions over some gin and tonics.

    Some things I have learnt, in Russia Pushkin is perceived as an equal to Shakespeare. Few english or american writers or scholars would express the sentiment that Pushkin is as good as Shakespeare, but in Russia think us weird or full of "western prejudice" for not truly recognizing the extent of Pushkin genius. And this brings up an interesting question. If a writer or scholar grows up in america or england, not only do contemporaries of his define Shakespeare as the greatest, but the entire tradition of the literatures language defines him as the greatest. In Russia the same thing happens with Pushkin. And the truth is that our culture and language have created a huge bias upon us, for both the russian and the englishmen are correct in their assumptions.

    The same also goes for Italy, where the only english writer of the last 150 years to have gained a significant reputation is Oscar Wilde. In fact when people say why not english poesy, the common response is why should we read their great Elizabethan works, for it is we who invented modern wester poesy and they like europe imitated.

    I am sure JBI could be able to argue in respects to the Chinese.

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