Interpretations of Literature - Vol. 2

Interpretations of Literature - Vol. 2

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Interpretations of Literature - Vol. 2

Interpretations of Literature - Vol. 2

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The humanistic school of English drama was firmly established by a group of university students, headed by the famous Marlowe. Very suddenly after the apparition of this group comes forward the most colossal figure in English literature,--and perhaps in all modern literature. This was not a student. He was not even a well educated man; he did not belong to the higher classes. He was a professional actor, which means that he had embraced a calling which in that time, and for many generations after, was considered ignoble. Yet this man did what no one else in any other country, since the highest period of Greek civilisation, had ever been able to do; and in more ways than one he probably surpassed the Greeks. So immensely superior to his age was this genius that as a genius he could not obtain recognition for hundreds of years after his death. It has well been said that no man can understand Shakespeare until he becomes old; and the English nation could not understand Shakespeare until it became old. In the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries Shakespeare was read and enjoyed only as schoolboys of twelve or fourteen years old now read and enjoy him--that is to say, he was read for the story only, without any suspicion of what an intellectual giant had appeared in the world. Nevertheless the sixteenth century was a great intellectual age, and it understood much more of Shakespeare than later generations proved themselves able to do. In the most degenerate period of English Literature, the period of the Restoration, Shakespeare was so little understood that people imagined they could improve his plays by rewriting them! No greater proof of intellectual degeneracy could have been . . .

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