Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Faith in Shakespeare's Characters

Faith in Shakespeare's characters by Dr. Kristen Poole

Shakespeare's brilliance lies in his characters. His plots were almost entirely borrowed – for instance, Hamlet and King Lear were re-makes of earlier plays; Romeo and Juliet re-tells an Italian story; the English history plays are based on sixteenth-century historiographies like Holinshed's Chronicles; the Roman plays are built from ancient sources like Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.

Many of these stories were already known to Shakespeare's audience. If Shakespeare were a filmmaker today, he would be known as an artist who primarily re-makes classic films. If he were a singer, he would be known as one who specialises in cover songs.

So Shakespeare's audience didn't go to see his plays for the thrill of a suspenseful plot. Instead, the drive of Shakespeare's plays comes from the intensity of the characters he created. Shakespeare had a gift of perception, able to observe and comprehend human emotions and behaviour with keen insight. And he had a talent for expressing these observations with exquisite verbal precision.

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