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Literature William Shakespeare: Best Freakin' Writer in the English Language

Poppy

Ankle Biter
I agree with Renee. Brilliant, brilliant writer - and I do think he probably wrote the vast majority of the work attributed to him.

I've seen many of the plays and I try to see them when they are made into movies. My favorite movie is probably Henry V with Kenneth Branagh.
 

das_nut

World Class Member
Just because two things use similar plot devices doesn't make them similar in quality. Comparisons like this boggle my mind, because Shakespeare's writing just seems to be obviously way better than Friends to me. But taste is taste I guess.
I'm not that big of a fan of Friends. But give the show 300 years, have it be one of the few works in the English language, and I'm sure we'd have term papers on the use of language in that show.

:p
 
M

Moll Flanders

Guest
I've studied quite a lot of his plays and I think I have an appreciation for his work rather than being a fan. It's much more enjoyable watching actors perform the plays.
 

das_nut

World Class Member
I've studied quite a lot of his plays and I think I have an appreciation for his work rather than being a fan. It's much more enjoyable watching actors perform the plays.
I really like the Kurosawa adaptations of King Lear and MacBeth.
 

cornsail

Renowned Member
I'm not that big of a fan of Friends. But give the show 300 years, have it be one of the few works in the English language, and I'm sure we'd have term papers on the use of language in that show.

:p
Sure. It would probably attract attention due to it being historically important in absence of many alternatives. I don't see how that's an argument that it's of similar quality to Shakespeare though.
 

das_nut

World Class Member
Sure. It would probably attract attention due to it being historically important in absence of many alternatives. I don't see how that's an argument that it's of similar quality to Shakespeare though.
I dunno, give it a few hundred years and let English shift in meaning. We'd probably consider it more highbrow than it actually is, similarly to how we tend to miss a lot of the lowbrow humor in Shakespeare (such as the double meaning in the title "Much Ado About Nothing").
 

FortyTwo

Custom Title
Yeah, I've read some of his stuff for school. Was indifferent to most of it, really enjoyed Macbeth. Though I do very clearly remember the sudden nudity in the (80s?) movie version of R&J that they showed in class.
 

cornsail

Renowned Member
I dunno, give it a few hundred years and let English shift in meaning. We'd probably consider it more highbrow than it actually is, similarly to how we tend to miss a lot of the lowbrow humor in Shakespeare (such as the double meaning in the title "Much Ado About Nothing").
You could say the same for the Coen Brothers, but this wouldn't be an argument that the Coen Brothers aren't great filmmakers. Not to mention there is plenty of surviving 17th century drama/literature that is not of comparable popularity to Shakespeare. Terms like highbrow and lowbrow are pretty much meaningless to me WRT whether I think something is good. My understanding of their meaning is too vague for me to have an opinion on how they fit or do not fit Shakespeare. If you mean the double meaning is lowbrow because it's crude then I fully endorse lowbrow.

I've been too harsh on Friends in this thread. I only saw a few episodes like 10+ years ago so I don't have a strong opinion about it and more importantly "greatness" is subjective. I do object to the idea that people like Shakespeare simply due to the change in language over the years though.
 

nigel

Veteran Member
Location
France
You could say the same for the Coen Brothers, but this wouldn't be an argument that the Coen Brothers aren't great filmmakers. Not to mention there is plenty of surviving 17th century drama/literature that is not of comparable popularity to Shakespeare. Terms like highbrow and lowbrow are pretty much meaningless to me WRT whether I think something is good. My understanding of their meaning is too vague for me to have an opinion on how they fit or do not fit Shakespeare. If you mean the double meaning is lowbrow because it's crude then I fully endorse lowbrow.

I've been too harsh on Friends in this thread. I only saw a few episodes like 10+ years ago so I don't have a strong opinion about it and more importantly "greatness" is subjective. I do object to the idea that people like Shakespeare simply due to the change in language over the years though.

Are there any Shakespeare contemporaries who have a surviving body of plays that approach the volume we have from Shakespeare? I was under the impression that the weren't.
 
"Lean but upon a rush," says Phoebe,"The cicatrice and capable impressure
Thy palm some moment keeps, but now mine eyes,
Which I have darted at thee, hurt thee not."
From As You Like It. The things I memorized that stick with me, lol. :oops:
 

das_nut

World Class Member
You could say the same for the Coen Brothers, but this wouldn't be an argument that the Coen Brothers aren't great filmmakers. Not to mention there is plenty of surviving 17th century drama/literature that is not of comparable popularity to Shakespeare.
It depends on what you mean by "popular". In his time, Shakespeare was popular, but there were other popular playwrights. After his time, his popularity wained, but later grew again. Is this because of quality, or because of other factors? After all, many religious texts tend to be popular and long-lasting, but that doesn't mean most are written well.

Terms like highbrow and lowbrow are pretty much meaningless to me WRT whether I think something is good. My understanding of their meaning is too vague for me to have an opinion on how they fit or do not fit Shakespeare. If you mean the double meaning is lowbrow because it's crude then I fully endorse lowbrow.
I'm referring to the dirty jokes in Shakespeare.

As I noted before, the play "Much Ado About Nothing" has a double innuendo in the title - "Nothing" was also slang in the period for a woman's vagina. It would be like writing a romantic comedy about a woman who had several cats and calling it "Much Ado About Pussy".

He actually uses the same joke in Hamlet, as well as a play on a certain four-letter slang word for a woman's genitals in the same scene. It's where Hamlet says "country manners" - say the first word slowly and take it in context. Another joke in the same vein is in Twelfth Night, where he talks about "these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s" (say that out loud). To say that Shakespeare is a tad bawdy is an understatement.

I've been too harsh on Friends in this thread. I only saw a few episodes like 10+ years ago so I don't have a strong opinion about it and more importantly "greatness" is subjective. I do object to the idea that people like Shakespeare simply due to the change in language over the years though.
I'm saying that people don't tend to pick up on a lot of the dirty jokes in Shakespeare due to shifts in language. The English is a little archaic by our standards, so we miss things. It helps Shakespeare's legacy that the common person doesn't pick up on the fact that his plays tend to be riddled with sex jokes. (Not that this is uncommon in what we'd consider "classical literature" - the Greek plays also frequently have their share of ribald jokes).

I used "Friends" as a comparison because both rely on cheap situations to move the action along.

I'm not trying to claim that Shakespeare is horrible. But I would not consider him the best writer in the English language.
 

das_nut

World Class Member
I'm curious to know who you consider to be a better writer in the English language than Shakespeare, and why.
Good question. I think it would depend on the criteria that one is judging "better" by. Are we going by verse? How about by social and cultural issues? Examination of the human condition? Storytelling ability? Popularity? Do we limit it only to playwrights and producers of related media (in this case, probably the modern equivalent would be scriptwriter)?
 

cornsail

Renowned Member
Are there any Shakespeare contemporaries who have a surviving body of plays that approach the volume we have from Shakespeare? I was under the impression that the weren't.
No idea, but I'm not sure if volume if the most important variable.

It depends on what you mean by "popular". In his time, Shakespeare was popular, but there were other popular playwrights. After his time, his popularity wained, but later grew again. Is this because of quality, or because of other factors? After all, many religious texts tend to be popular and long-lasting, but that doesn't mean most are written well.

I'm referring to the dirty jokes in Shakespeare.

As I noted before, the play "Much Ado About Nothing" has a double innuendo in the title - "Nothing" was also slang in the period for a woman's vagina. It would be like writing a romantic comedy about a woman who had several cats and calling it "Much Ado About Pussy".

He actually uses the same joke in Hamlet, as well as a play on a certain four-letter slang word for a woman's genitals in the same scene. It's where Hamlet says "country manners" - say the first word slowly and take it in context. Another joke in the same vein is in Twelfth Night, where he talks about "these be her very C’s, her U’s and her T’s" (say that out loud). To say that Shakespeare is a tad bawdy is an understatement.

I'm saying that people don't tend to pick up on a lot of the dirty jokes in Shakespeare due to shifts in language. The English is a little archaic by our standards, so we miss things. It helps Shakespeare's legacy that the common person doesn't pick up on the fact that his plays tend to be riddled with sex jokes. (Not that this is uncommon in what we'd consider "classical literature" - the Greek plays also frequently have their share of ribald jokes).

I used "Friends" as a comparison because both rely on cheap situations to move the action along.

I'm not trying to claim that Shakespeare is horrible. But I would not consider him the best writer in the English language.
Bawd/dirty is bad? I don't know why you think people would like Shakespeare less if they understood the dirty jokes. When I read R&J and Othello it was with a ton of footnotes. And you're talking to someone who enjoyed Jackass 3D.

Religious works are not a fair comparison. But popularity is also obviously not the be all end all metric of goodness. I hate a lot of esteemed drama/literature, like Fitzgerald, Virginia Wolf and Fellini, although I would hesitate to say that they are not good. I don't have an opinion on who the best writer is, I just think Shakespeare is one of many good writers.
 

nigel

Veteran Member
Location
France
No idea, but I'm not sure if volume if the most important variable.
I wasn't suggesting it was, or if it is important at all as a measure of quality. We can't really say he was the "best freakin'" anything if we aren't given fair amounts of material to evaluate. It is worth considering that his volume of work allows us to have "more to like" and to credit him with things simply because he's our first or only exposure to it. For example, he is credited for penning countless terms and words in English, but is it merely because his writing of these terms is all that survived? For all we know, every bug-eating illiterate moron in England was using the term "thunderous silence" as they spoke with one another, but we'll never know because they never wrote it down. It reminds me of how much early British colonial American history is based solely on the writings of Captain John Smith, or how the perceived nature of incipient US politics comes from Thomas Jefferson alone. When people write a shitload of stuff and it gets preserved it keeps a lasting impression. That doesn't make it the best or even good. That's all I'm saying.
 

das_nut

World Class Member
For example, he is credited for penning countless terms and words in English, but is it merely because his writing of these terms is all that survived? For all we know, every bug-eating illiterate moron in England was using the term "thunderous silence" as they spoke with one another, but we'll never know because they never wrote it down.
Speaking of which, the Oxford English Dictionary was trying to hunt down a rare book awhile back:

"Meanderings of Memory, by one "Nightlark", is dated to 1852 by the OED, and appears in 51 entries for the dictionary, including "couchward", "extemporize" and "fringy"."

- The Guardian.

"Nightlark" was quite a prolific person for being almost entirely obscure.
 

cornsail

Renowned Member
I wasn't suggesting it was, or if it is important at all as a measure of quality. We can't really say he was the "best freakin'" anything if we aren't given fair amounts of material to evaluate. It is worth considering that his volume of work allows us to have "more to like" and to credit him with things simply because he's our first or only exposure to it. For example, he is credited for penning countless terms and words in English, but is it merely because his writing of these terms is all that survived? For all we know, every bug-eating illiterate moron in England was using the term "thunderous silence" as they spoke with one another, but we'll never know because they never wrote it down. It reminds me of how much early British colonial American history is based solely on the writings of Captain John Smith, or how the perceived nature of incipient US politics comes from Thomas Jefferson alone. When people write a shitload of stuff and it gets preserved it keeps a lasting impression. That doesn't make it the best or even good. That's all I'm saying.
No, I know -- it matters WRT popularity, which is what I thought you meant. I was just saying I don't know if it's the most important factor in that regard. I agree that it is significant, though. Fair point.

I'm not saying anyone's the best anything, but I think it has to be taken as a given that opinions on who is the "greatest writer" are limited to work that we have actually got access to. And how influential/popular a writer is is going to always involve elements of both blind luck and skill/talent/effort. No reasoning can really conclusively demonstrate that any writing is good AFAIK.
 
It's okay, Brits. William Shakespeare is a GOD. You can puff out your chest and be proud to claim Will as one of your own. :broccoli:

To everyone:

1. Which plays have you read?
2. Which plays have you seen?
3. Which movie versions of his plays have you seen? (Both the regular ones and the "modern" retellings such as West Side Story and 10 Things I Hate About You)
4. Which plays are your favorites?
5. Do you agree that the conspiracy theories and claims that Shakespeare didn't write his own plays are silly?
6. Olivier as Hamlet vs. Branagh as Hamlet. Who wins?
1. Macbeth, King Lear, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, The Merchant Of Venice.
2. Julius Caesar, Macbeth.
3. I've seen 3 film versions of Hamlet, Twelfth Night, 10 Things I hate About You, 1000 Acres, and the Hollow Crown mini-series (comprising Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V).
4. The Merchant Of Venice is my favourite.
5. I think the conspiracy theories are utter bollocks.
6. Both are tremendous in their own ways, as is Tennant's version. Actually, I feel that Tennant was the one who best captured the real meaning of the "To be, or not to be..." scene.
 

PTree15

Beach bum
Location
Connecticut
It's okay, Brits. William Shakespeare is a GOD. You can puff out your chest and be proud to claim Will as one of your own. :broccoli:

To everyone:

1. Which plays have you read?
2. Which plays have you seen?
3. Which movie versions of his plays have you seen? (Both the regular ones and the "modern" retellings such as West Side Story and 10 Things I Hate About You)
4. Which plays are your favorites?
5. Do you agree that the conspiracy theories and claims that Shakespeare didn't write his own plays are silly?
6. Olivier as Hamlet vs. Branagh as Hamlet. Who wins?
Love Shakespeare. The man had an amazing way with words.
I played Bottom the Weaver in A Midsummer Night's Dream in high school :D
I have read a lot of the usuals: Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Henry V, etc. I also enjoy the sonnets.
I love the Claire Danes and Leo DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet and 10 Things I Hate About You. I have also seen Hamlet, Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh.
The National Theatre has been celebrating its 50th year by showing filmed live encore performances of a number of plays throughout the U.S., including Hamlet with Rory Kinnear. He was really good. I am going to see Coriolanus next month. :)
I am partial to Branagh, so he edges out Olivier as a Hamlet for me.
As for my favorite, I would have to say Hamlet.
 
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Amy SF

Dweller in nature
Love Shakespeare. The man had an amazing way with words.
I played Bottom the Weaver in A Midsummer Night's Dream in high school :D
I have read a lot of the usuals: Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Henry V, etc. I also enjoy the sonnets.
I love the Claire Danes and Leo DiCaprio Romeo + Juliet and 10 Things I Hate About You. I have also seen Hamlet, Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh.
The National Theatre has been celebrating its 50th year by showing filmed live encore performances of a number of plays throughout the U.S., including Hamlet with Rory Kinnear. He was really good. I am going to see Coriolanus next month. :)
I am partial to Branagh, so he edges out Olivier as a Hamlet for me.
As for my favorite, I would have to say Hamlet.
Now that you've bumped this thread, I'm reminded of the Star Trek:TOS episode "The Conscience of the King" which uses a performance of Hamlet as a device for Captain Kirk in much the same way that the character Hamlet uses the play-within-the-play in hopes of catching a villain. One of my favorite episodes of that series. :yes:
 
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