Shakespeare and the Nature of Man

Shakespeare and the Nature of Man

Shakespeare and the Nature of Man

Shakespeare and the Nature of Man

Excerpt

There are three main ways in which we can study the expression of human experience in the arts. We can study the historical -- the intellectual, social and emotional -- background which the artist was able to use, and out of which he grew; we can study the craft, the artistic medium, which he employed; and we can try to analyze and judge the final product in relation to what we believe to be true of human experience as a whole.

To study a great artist, such as Shakespeare, in all of these three ways may seem to be a presumptuous undertaking. Yet that is what I want to do in this book. And as a basis for this study I have taken the widest possible topic: "Shakespeare and the Nature of Man."

Such a topic obviously needs definition before we can say anything sensible about it, for if we are to accomplish our threefold aim of understanding the past, analyzing a craft, and judging the truth of what is expressed in that craft, we must have as clear as possible a picture of what we are doing, and of what we are leaving aside. Though the topic is vast, and fundamental, it does not include everything, and what we are looking for is not a complete picture of Shakespeare. We shall not have much to say about the sources of Shakespeare's plots, nor about the texture of his poetry, and we shall have to leave out any full discussion of his use of primarily literary fashions and technical dramatic devices. Frequently our account of his characters will seem incomplete. But this is inevitable; our aim is to describe the point of view that underlies all these things, the framework that gave Shakespeare his terms and his values. It is Shake speare . . .

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