Shakespeare-Hatred: An Underground Literary Tradition

Shaw: No Lover of Shakespeare He

Over at Crooked Timber, they are having a lively discussion  provoked by George Bernard Shaw’s scorn for Shakespeare. On many occasions Shaw expressed extreme distain for the Bard of Avon. In a 1906 letter Shaw wrote “I have striven hard to open English eyes to the emptiness of Shakespeare’s philosophy, to the superficiality and second-handedness of his morality, to his weakness and incoherence as a thinker, to his snobbery, his vulgar prejudices, his ignorance, his disqualifications of all sorts for the philosophic eminence claimed for him.”

Shaw’s opinion are easy to dismiss, it is often forgotten that there is a long and venerable tradition of Shakespeare-hatred, a critical tradition that includes not just crank and reflexive contrarians but also some very great writers. Aside from Shaw, Voltaire and Leo Tolstoy were also vociferously hostile to Stratford’s favourite son. Voltaire actually started off as a champion of Shakespeare but turned against the English writer’s plays. More recently the novelist Joyce Carol Oates (in her collection Contraries) and mad-dog essayist Marvin Mudrick have taken aim at Shakespeare.

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Flat Out Like a Lizard Thinking

Ben Franklin, phrase-maker.
Ben Franklin, phrase-maker.
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:

FUN WITH SLANG: READ THE WHOLE THING TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN WIN A PRIZE!

 

I just got back from a trip to Greece, where I befriended a lot of Australians.  The best thing about Australians, besides their good looks and superior drinking abilities, is their slang.  I learned a lot of great phrases, such as I’m flat out like a lizard drinking (busy), drink some cement and harden the F up (stop being a baby), brekkie (breakfast), sunnies (sunglasses), mozzies (mosquitoes), jumper (sweater), and Fosters (beer). I am trying to integrate them into my everyday language now that I am back in The States.

 

So much of what we say today can be traced back to an actual person. Shakespeare was probably the best at inventing phrases that people would continue to use for years to come.  He was also a wiz at Connect Four.  According to the internet, B-Shakes invented the phrases a laughing stock, a sorry sight, fair play (Irish people love saying this), eaten out of house and home (sexually active people love saying this), neither here nor there, and vanish into thin air, among many others.  He also invented the phrase in a pickle, after a terrible mishap at Zabar’s.

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