Musings on Everything

I muse, therefore I write.

On Shakespeare

Seriously, what is up with that guy? Many people (sadly, not all of them Britons) seem to think he’s all that. And I’m OK with that. Hell, Stephanie Meyer’s books have plot holes the size of Manhattan in them, and hordes of otherwise quite intelligent girls have fallen madly in love with them. Though that is a subject for another post. What really annoys me is how every single English teacher since the 1600s has been absolutely convinced that Wiliam Shakespeare is the best thing since sliced bread and pizza and, furthermore, how generations upon generations of students have had to suffer through boring English classses all about how witty he was, how utterly delightful his plays are, and so on and so forth. 

Well, frankly, I don’t see what’s so great about him. So he cracks a lot of puns. So do I. So does everyone. Puns are everywhere. So why is this one punster so highly valued? So he can make his characters stupid enough to be funny. That’s been done to death, and any two-bit off the street should be able to do that. I mean, Robin Williams is proof enough of this fact. So far, that’s two “qualities” unqualified. 

But wait, you say. What of the main point of Shakespeare’s genius, his elegant and captivating stories? Well, let’s take the much-loved comedy play Much Ado About Nothing as an example, shall we?

Much Ado About Nothing is about a young gentleman named Claudio, his love Hero, and all the circumstances surrounding their marriage. You see, Claudio is madly in love with Hero, and so his master Don Pedro takes it upon himself to obtain Hero’s hand in marriage for his good friend. Which he does. All well and good. But! Don Pedro’s bastard brother Don John seeks to see Claudio ruined, so he arranges a fake love scene with Hero so that Claudio would get all angry and… leave Hero at the altar? And so we come to our first plot difficulty. Since when does defaming one person mean accusing someone totally different of adultery? Sense is not made at all. I mean, if Claudio, a prominent, honest man tells the world that he saw his fiancee being unfaithful to him, and if Claudio is further backed by Don Pedro, an even more trustworthy man, if that is even possible (and Denzel Washington to boot!), then how, exactly, could he be defamed? It would seem quite obvious to even the most oblivious dunderhead that the only loser in that entire situation would have to be Hero. Poor girl. 

But then the play gets really weird. It would also seem that there is a certain man Benedick who is engaged in a “merry war” with a certain Beatrice. These two are constantly insulting each other. But they’re really secretly in love with each other and end up marrying by the end of the play? Really, now, Will? You run out of ideas or something? I’ve seen that in every crappy fanfic and teenager’s LiveJournal entry this side of the 1980s, sir. I swear, that plot must be so old, Aesop must have considered using it. And that man was around before the Book of Genesis was written. What I’m trying to say is, that’s old, tired, and done. If you’re so awesome, Mr. Shakespeare, why didn’t you make up something new?

Which brings me to my last point. Did you know that the entirety of the plot and characters from Much Ado About Nothing were plagiarized? No, I’m not kidding. The plot was lifted wholesale from an earlier work, the twenty-second story from Matteo Bandello’s Novelle, published in 1554. And when I say “lifted,” I mean “lifted,” from the names of the characters (compare Master Lionato to Leonato) to the love scene (compare spying on fake lovers to… spying on fake lovers). I mean that every single plot development comes straight from this short story. EVERYTHING. People, this is about comparable to what Coldplay did to Satriani. Or what the American version of The Office did to the British version of The Office (they changed “Tim” to “Jim.” Not kidding). Just about the only thing that could be considered “unique” would be that Shakespeare took this and added Dogberry and Benedick. Really? An idiotic, posturing comic foil and a stereotypical comic foil? Really, Will? Is that really all the uniqueness you could come up with? Really?

Sound off in the comments. What do you say of Shakespeare? Does he still deserve to be studied? Or is there someone better than him students should study?


Written by Sri

December 15, 2008 at 5:56 PM

Posted in Musings

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3 Responses

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  1. Not punny enough, just like vvierdbro’s. :P


    December 15, 2008 at 7:12 PM

  2. You forgot to mention that he’s also really boring. :P

    Esteban/Resident Creeper

    December 15, 2008 at 7:42 PM

  3. Really, no one claims Shakespeare had original plots. The English teachers are the people who can truly care about the language completely over the plot. I know it seems like Shakespeare language is nothing special, but, most of the time, great authors put much more thought into language than you’d expect or believe.

    Of course, maybe Much Ado About Nothing was just one of his weaker plays. I’ve seen some performances of Shakespeare shows, like A Comedy of Errors, which came to life on stage, due to great acting. I don’t think its fair to judge Shakespeare based on the teachings of Mrs. L and Kenneth Branagh.


    December 15, 2008 at 9:50 PM

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