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The Shakespeare Strategy
In Response To: Bloomin' Hamlet ()

Authors like Bloom that use the word, preternaturally, multiple times in the same short work simply cannot be taken seriously.

In the Introduction to the Othello (Arden Shakespeare edition, pp 13-14), it is stated, "The analysis of Shakespeare's 'characters' has become unfashionable and, in some quarters, discredited. Whether or not we agree with this modern trend we have to acknowledge that for more than three centuries the world admired 'our Shakespeare' (as he was called in his own lifetime) as a creator of character. 'O Shakespeare and Nature,' Hazlitt exclaimed, adapting a famous saying, 'which of you copied from the other?' This Introduction, being intended - among other things - as a survey of some of the more stimulating criticism of the past, cannot simply ignore 'character criticism'. It will differ from Hazlitt and other good critics in emphasizing the contradictions in Othello and Iago, in arguing that readers and performers can interpret them in different valid ways and, more controversially, in suggesting that, when all is said, Othello and Iago defeat character criticism."

In other words, Academia has given up on understanding the Shakespeare plays! Shakespeare's genius was in creating characters that we mere mortals cannot comprehend!

The Introduction to Twelfth Night (Arden Shakespeare edition, p 24)
states, "But the risk of interpreting interpretations - a risk doubtless incurred in this edition - is one that the comedy itself challenges us to run, and it cannot and should not put an end to speculative hermeneutic readings. Inevitably, and rightly, spectators, critics and even editors continue to find in the play what they will."

Yet, the editor of Arden Shakespeare's Twelfth Night considers himself to have run far enough risk without even beginning to consider contemporary Elizabethan court intrigue. To do so obviously would instantly identify any such editor as the third foolish companion alongside amateurs and players in the eyes of super-critical Academics. Those who really want to know who and what Shakespeare was and why the plays were produced are on their own. Sadly, the same can pretty much be said for all of written history!

Bloom blubbers in Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (p 135), "Ransacking Hamlet is a losing process". Yet, understanding Hamlet should be no more difficult than understanding the process by which the royal family ransacked the entire world generation-by-generation. And if we don't have the will to do that, then, yes, we should resign ourselves to reading Shakespeare as most people read the Bible and horoscopes, for general inspiration only.

The Introduction to Arden Shakespeare's, As You Like It, at least shows some sign of hope for the world. That particular editor, Juliet Dusinberre has it seems more balls than most. She speaks extensively of Essex and the Elizabethan court and the context of this play being the order of Essex out of England to subdue Ireland.

"Essex complained to the queen that his appointment to Ireland in March of 1599 was exile ... he signed himself 'Y' Ma / exiled seruant / Essex. As You Like It, perhaps first performed at one of the most significant turning points of Essex's career, shortly before his departure for Ireland, has always been considered exempt from political influences because of its pastoral mode. But this is not how Elizabethans viewed pastoral." (pp 102-3) Dusinberre explains that the forest and countryside were not only places of contemplation but of banishment.

She continues (p 103), "Shakespeare's As You Like It may, under the mask of pastoral, have invited moody Essex, the envious Ralegh, the calculating Cecil, and even the queen herself, to cool their passions and cherish their true friends." At this juncture the fate of Essex was still undecided. There was the possibility of a happy ending, which is As You Like It would have liked it. But we now know from the sequel, Hamlet, things turned out very badly. Essex could not "let it be" and "dug his own grave", so to speak.

Equivocating somewhat, Dusinberre goes on (p 104), "There is no portrait of Essex in As You Like It, but the play captures the spirit which made Essex a lodestar for his own culture: insouciant, vital, exuberant, audacious. Various characters evoke his divided personality - the 'humorous' Duke Frederick (a word often used of Essex), the melancholy and satirical Jaques, and even the dual persona of Rosalind/Ganymede, but his image evokes Orlando - named from the world of epic romance which Essex cherished in his self-dramatization (Hammer, 199-212). Essex was, as any reading of his letters to Elizabeth demonstrates, a tremendous role-player, himself a Rosalind/Ganymede, now a woman to be wooed, now a brash young man."

Royal culture was one of twins and twins of twins. Each played many parts, and every part could be played by more than one at the same time. The same interpretive keys apply to As You Like It that were employed in Twelfth Night. And these same interpretive keys were also used to unlock Biblical narratives in which individual royal figures assumed multiple names and identities. We also found that in some cases there was a cross-coupling of different individuals through the sharing of a common name, such as with "King Joash" in the Kings/Chronicles history of the Old Testament.

This is not subatomic physics people, Shakespeare we can understand!