William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide

William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide

William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide

William Shakespeare: A Reader's Guide

Excerpt

Many of us have observed in our travels that the best guides are often those who assert themselves least. They take us to the point where the view is best, step aside and let us look at it, assuming with a right sense of propriety that their forms are not essential to the landscape. They point out fine works in the galleries, and fine features of those works, but do not tell us how to respond. I am no huntsman, but I presume that huntsmen prefer guides who know where the game is but refrain from shooting it for them.

I aspire in this book to be a good guide, but I am not allowed to be taciturn. Making assertions is my only means of pointing, and if something strikes me as beautiful, I must say that it is so. The invitation to see may resemble an injunction to feel, the guiding may look like judging, but the intention is not to judge but only to bear witness. If the thing is not really beautiful, at least the possibility has been opened. Since discourse which is uniformly neutral is apt also to be unreadable, I must make my fallible assertions as persuasively as I can; impersonality is virtuous in a guide but dismal in a tone of voice. I believe that a guide may be warm in his testimony, providing he sticks to particulars. It is when he begins to generalize that he begins to abuse his function.

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