As an avid aficionado of the theatrical arts, I’ve often been mistaken to be a lover of the Bard of London as well. In fact, people have many a times turned towards me & have interrogated me as to my position on one of the Bard’s sordid works, expecting me to jump up & down in joy & rattle off some sophisticated analysis, only to be dumbstruck when I instead proceed to rip apart ol’ Will & declare that as long as I live, I will never come within a pole’s length of one of his works( If they were even his works to begin with).
Needless to say, I’ve been met with stern & rather determined opposition to my stance. There are those who claim” Oh but Shakespeare is the greatest playwright of all time, how could you hate him?!?”( Greatest playwright my foot, the man never wrote a day in his life and even if he did, a two headed donkey could write better) & those who exclaim ” His writing is both contemporary & classical at the same time, his writings continue to affect modern day English, did you know that the word assassination was first written by him, how could you possibly hate him???” .( Contemporary and Classical are words used to describe things like Star Wars or the OG Avengers, not freaking Shakespeare. And to hell with his so-called contributions to the English language, Hitler made a tremendous contribution to the world of the automotive industry, but nobody goes around trumpeting that, do they?)There are still others who make the even more insidious claim ” Shakespeare is a must in any English curriculum, it’s the only way to learn how to speak proper English”. ( Proper English?!! Proper English?!!!!!! Do you even know what proper English is?! To put it simply, it would be German, because the damn language is of Germanic origin, what next, you want all humans to return back to the Serengeti??! )
My argument against Shakespeare is built to specifically counter all three of these annoying types of people.
First, let’s start with the most common defense of them all, the slanderous assertion that Mr.Shakespeare actually wrote those so-called “masterpieces”. To many of you, it would seem like an absolute no-brainer, of course the Sheikh of Spears wrote his plays, why else would they be credited to him? Well then it might surprise you to know that there is actually a whole host of spirited debates going on amongst the whos who of the literary world based on this very question, did the Bard ever really write? These debates range from whether he actually existed to whether he was a conniving opportunist who stole the works of his best friend. Several candidates have been put forth as the true writer of William’s works , including Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, about whom a whole movie titled Anonymous has been made and Christopher Marlowe, now the most prominent alternative. While those who are interested in the subject can proceed to do their own research, from what I’ve read, there is sadly no denying the fact that Shakespeare existed and that he did write some plays. However, he can no longer claim to be literary equivalent to Da Vinci i.e a lone pioneering maverick the likes of whom we will never see again. This is because study after study has shown that more than half of his plays were co-authored, including one of his greatest set of works, Henry VI, with both Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe being credited as co-authors. Shakespeare was also rather unremarkable for his times, with several rivals like Ben Jonson & John Marston who were equally, if not more popular at the time. The quartet of writers i.e Shakespeare,Marlowe, Jonson & Marston often imitated one another as evidenced in several of their works. While Marlowe and Shakespeare were quite similar in writing styles and often poked jibs at one another,with Shakespeare even alluding that Marlowe was receiving help from satanic forces. Marston was more of a satirist whose books were supposedly so scandalous that they had to be burnt which only increased their popularity. But, some may ask, if they were so similar, why was Shakespeare given more prominence? Several theories abound regarding this, with the most popular alluding to some secret pact between the playwright and the royals.
While these revelations would be enough cause the wannabe Shakespeare head to clam up, there would be the occasional annoying person who would exclaim “But so many geniuses collaborated, look at Steve Jobs for example. Would you call Jobs as an idiot for collaborating?”. To them I say, first, your example is flawed because technology inherently requires you to collaborate( Do not say Edison because he did not invent the light bulb!) while writing doesn’t and second, the title says Greatest Playwright (singular) not ” Bunch of guys who worked together to write a play in England”.
This would then awaken the kraken that is the 2nd argument in favor of Shakespeare i.e ” So what if they worked together, the end result was beautiful and wondrous & remains relevant even today” . This style of reasoning is used by the Leonards of our world, those with some amount of knowledge in their craniums but not enough to rate them above that of an 8 year old child. They claim that it matters not to them the creator of these epic works , what matters is that they are epic works that have no equal in the realm of prose. Countering this style requires your opponent to possess a passable knowledge about the works of other writers and a pair of functioning ear holes(doesn’t matter whether they are human or not). While Shakespeare & Co. may be adored by scholars and other such elites, it is important to note that deciding the GOAT doesn’t just come down to them ( I’m looking at you FIFA Best award) for the opinions of the average literati must also be taken into consideration. Unlike CR 7, the works of Shake & Co have not aged well, with their irrelevance to the English language and their ability to put even your caffeine infused author to sleep growing by each passing day. With the advent of cli-fi, emojis, abbreviations and various other upheavals, the English language has long since morphed into a completely different beast from the one fathered by those 14th century bozos.Even if you if you discounted the effects that technology has had on languages(which you can’t by the way) , you can’t ignore the fact that several prominent authors have popped up since Willy’s time. And their works have stuck around, JRR Tolkien created whole new realms and worlds that remain hitherto unrivaled , George Orwell wrote visionary pieces whose implications and postulations are serving as warning bells for today’s increasingly surveillance based world, Homer, Plato and Machiavelli wrote political and historical masterpieces that remain relevant even today and they existed centuries before Will & Team, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle created whole new genres that inspired other literary stalwarts like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Christopher Nolan, JK Rowling, George RR Martin are all legends in their own right and none of them are fading into obscurity anytime soon.The splendorous thing about languages is that they evolve and grow and that new works push away and replace the old. Language is tailored to suit the people of that time and era and the people of today have spoken, Shakespeare is no longer the King. Then who is, comes the question. Well to that, I unfortunately do not have the answer, but I will direct you to refer to this quote from a bookseller in Jordan by the name of Hamzeh AlMaaytah. He was asked to name his favorite book and he said” A favorite book! No! That is extremism! To say one book is the best, better than any other … no, I could never do it.”
Now that the Kraken has been slain, let’s move on to the last and the weakest of all the arguments in support of the Bard & his entourage , the supposed fact that they are the flag bearers of proper English and that learning their works is a must for all those who seek to converse through it. This is also the argument that infuriates me the most, the fixation that English teachers and curriculums have over this body of work has killed the souls of many a new entrant into the language. In India, the brilliant novels of writers like Amitav Ghosh, Anand Neelakanthan, Arundhati Roy, Satyajit Ray, V.S Naipaul,Khuswant Singh, to name a few, are consigned to the trash heap, while horrid works like Romeo & Juliet and Merchant of Venice are venerated by the school system and rammed down the throats of innocent children, children whose love for a new language will forever be tainted by the bitter taste of words like hath & doth. By promoting the viewpoint of one man from the 14th century, we are making it seem to our future generations that his viewpoint is more important than that of writers from across the world. Instead of fixating on one set of writers from one continent, we should be exploring the ideas and oral traditions of playwrights from across the world, we need to face up to the fact that perhaps its time that we acknowledge Shakespeare for whatever he contributed to our literature and leave it at that.
Now look, I’m not an extremist, I don’t mind people learning about Shakespeare, I just think that all his works should be rounded up, burnt & their ashes poured into acid.Perhaps a few photographs of them can be stored in an underground vault somewhere at the bottom of the Marina Trench, similar to the way Nazi Artwork is hidden away in army bunkers in the US. This way, only the stir-crazy academic and the loony historian can access them and their evil contents and the rest of the world would be free to explore and appreciate the works of those who truly deserve to be called ” The Greats of All Time” .