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Thread: Homer vs Shakespeare

  1. #16
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    The problem is not a contest, the problem is when someone tries to imply without the Comedy Dante would be a minor poet, without considering that before the comedy his reputation was already solid and Vita Nuova would keep him as one of the greatest and most influential lyrical poets ever.
    You claim that the problem is not a contest, then use comparative words like "greatest" and "most influential" and "minor". I understand your point, but you are contradicting yourself.

  2. #17
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    When evaluating the merit of a given artist in any field, one considers the scale and breadth of their work. Scale is not limited to number. Haydn wrote many more symphonies... even many more great symphonies... than Beethoven and Mahler but no one would think to suggest that Beethoven and Mahler's achievements were not every bit as grand in scale... if not more so. Dante's Comedia (which by the way, is three individual epic poems which make up an even more epic whole) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are not works that are equal to but a single Shakespearean play... as much as I love Shakespeare.
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  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    You claim that the problem is not a contest, then use comparative words like "greatest" and "most influential" and "minor". I understand your point, but you are contradicting yourself.
    I don't. I made no claim about the existense or not of a contest, I just said the problem is not it. The problem is this attempt to downgrade other writers with the purpose of praising Shakespeare with false claims about their achivements. Even Danik isn't contradicting himself, when he, before I did, agreed with you about the non-existense of a sport where writers can win and be the best over others, but in sequence mentioned the canon, which implies in authors with more influence than others, because such thing didnt happen as a result of a game.

    However, several critics do point a competitive nature or pressure in artistic production, even it is not a sport. But as I clearly said, the contest is irrelevant, since they are not even allowing Team Dante to come full in the field (how many times me and Stlukes had to remind the Comedy is 3 works, not one for example?)
    #foratemer

  4. #19
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Evaluating works of art is a legitimate critical function. However, the extent to which the (amateur) critic agrees with the experts may constitute a boast about that critic's artistic expertise. The mark of critical expertise is not the extent to which the critic agrees with established experts (almost all of whom list Shakespeare, Homer, and Dante as three seminal figures in Western Literature). Instead, the critic could (should?) attempt to provide UNIQUE insights into art. These could be insights into WHY great works of art are great, or it could involve identifying great works with which others may be unfamiliar.

    Shakespeare, Dante, and Homer are well loved. What else is new? I'd rather read about why Tolstoy or Shaw hate Shakespeare. At least they have something original to say. (An original argument about the merits of these three artistic greats would be worthwhile as well, but simply listing them as great artists is, at best, boring.)

  5. #20
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I think one thing one has to bear in mind, when talking about works of art, is that they as well as our own perspective and values and even the criteria of what is canonical are shaped by history. We are still at the beginning of 21 C, but already the perspective on art (including literature)is very different from what it was about 25 years ago. The concept of the great author or the great work of art so dear to the 20 C IMO is being more and more replaced by collective productions.
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  6. #21
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    I prefer Shakespeare to Homer, largely because I find Shakespeare's language far more beautiful and powerful. But that might just be because of loss in translation.

    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    When evaluating the merit of a given artist in any field, one considers the scale and breadth of their work. Scale is not limited to number. Haydn wrote many more symphonies... even many more great symphonies... than Beethoven and Mahler but no one would think to suggest that Beethoven and Mahler's achievements were not every bit as grand in scale... if not more so. Dante's Comedia (which by the way, is three individual epic poems which make up an even more epic whole) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are not works that are equal to but a single Shakespearean play... as much as I love Shakespeare.
    Out of curiosity, since you said earlier you consider him the greatest writer, how many plays would you say it takes for him to surpass the Homeric epics or the Comedy?

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    Things got quite interesting. Albeit it seemed to veer off from the Homer-Shakespeare question.

  8. #23
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    There is also the matter of the translation to consider. I first read Shakespeare in the famous German translations of Schlegel and Tieck. When I finally had access to the original I was disapointed. I thought the translation superior. But that was probably because of my difficulty with that version of English.
    And who today reads Homer and Virgil in the original?
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  9. #24
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Chapman's Homer translations worked for Keats (the bumpkin who couldn't read the original, unlike his educated contemporaries):

    ....Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He star'd at the Pacific....
    Keats couldn't read Epic Greek, and he apparently didn't know that Balboa (not Cortez) discovered the Pacific Ocean.

    I believe most modern critics consider Chapman's translation mediocre (I couldn't judge).

    From the criticism I've read, Virgil's Latin verse is stately and elegant; Dante is praised for the precision and consistency of his rhyme schemes and rhythm. I haven't read any of these three in the original, and I can't judge. Shakespeare is a (even THE) great wordsmith of English (although I'm not the biggest fan of the sonnets). C.S. Lewis wrote an essay: Hamlet: a play or a poem -- but I can't remember his conclusion. Tolstoy and Shaw thought Shakespeare's characters protean (changing with the demands of elegant dialogue) and his plots incredible. Tolstoy's hatchet job on King Lear is available on line. It's worth reading, whether one agrees or not -- especially because Tolstoy became a Lear-like figure to his family in his old age. The Shakespeare haters find lots of poetic artifice, but some artificiality in the art, in the plays.

    Of course in terms of influence, Homer was the literary genius of antiquity; Dante of the Christian Middle Ages, and Shakespeare of the early modern period. All three prove that while scientists stand on the shoulders of giants, and therefore build on their achievements, the history of literature is not necessarily a "stately progression" (as Virgil's verse has been called).

  10. #25
    Shakespeare is the better creator of characters in the modern sense, though to be fair Homer inherited all or most of his characters from traditional sources.

    The Bard's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA is, however, an ill-advised attempt to one-up Homer on Homer's own turf.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by ouroboros dream View Post
    Shakespeare is the better creator of characters in the modern sense, though to be fair Homer inherited all or most of his characters from traditional sources.

    The Bard's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA is, however, an ill-advised attempt to one-up Homer on Homer's own turf.
    Cool comparison. Though I love Troilus and Cressida as its own sophisticated, experimental, avant-garde, weird, opaque, baffling, anxious, and elitist play rivaled in its experimentalism only by the far greater Hamlet.

  12. #27
    Yeah, TROILUS is more rewarding than some of the other "problem plays," like TIMON OF ATHENS. It's interesting that TROILUS was composed within a year or so of HAMLET, but the latter has gone down in history as THE Shakespeare play, and TROILUS, not so much.

    I've heard that the Iliad had not been fully translated into English, so we don't know what the Bard knew about the Iliad-story when he wrote TROILUS. I find it hard to believe that WS wasn't at least aware of the big fight between Achilles and Hector, and that he decided to invert it by removing all its honorable connotations.

  13. #28
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    The Trojan War story, at least, had become part of the fabric of English literature well before Shakespeare's day. For example, Chaucer had already written of "Troilus and Criseyde" two hundred years before Shakespeare; some throwaway references in "Gawain and the Green Knight" assume that every reader would have been familiar with the background of the Iliad; Hector was sometimes included amongst the "Nine Worthies."
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