Another Kick At The Darkness
Oy. Another Tuesday, another class, this one on one of my least favourite of Shakespeare's plays, the vastly overpraised A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play itself is such a trifle, an insubstantiality-- though I have to admit that I'm of the thinking that comedy is probably Shakespeare's weakest genre on the whole. Whee whee, a bunch of fairies, pucks and dejected and denied lovers cavorting about. It doesn't help that the play is now the victim of so many erotomanic (or is that erotomaniacal? food for thought...) modern interpretations that whatever charm the play might have held has now become tainted. For the record, many of my colleagues have similar problems with other plays: a good friend of mine refuses to teach The Tempest because of the heavy-handed self-righteous bull-plop of Po-Co criticism on the play that would turn it into the tragedy of Caliban rather than deal with the play as a romance; another colleague of mine insists on constantly making The Merchant of Venice an anti-Semitic play rather than engage in the debate the play itself generates. Alas, so many critics will not be content until they've sliced, diced and eaten Shakespeare as if he were the sun-god of literature that needed to die for the world to be reborn. Such critics are the bane of my existence. They're not literary scholars or critics as much as they are pedants and polemicists with only a political or ideological interest in Shakespeare (or most other writers, for that matter). God save us from the social scientifiers of literary studies! Or save me, at least. Stephen Greenblatt and his ilk have done so much more harm than good, it seems.
(And yes, my regular readers are muttering in their heads, here he goes again, getting his dander up about the current state of criticism. In my defense, I invoke Eliot from East Coker: "You say I am repeating / Something I have said before. I will say it again." And, I fear, I'll probably be repeating ad nauseum until I begin to see signs of hope: I call it, borrowing from Bruce Cockburn, kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.)
Ah well, at least it's not yet another run through of Twelfth Night. I don't think I could teach that play one more time. Grrrr, arrrgh. Anyway, it's off to go pucking around and bottoming out.