William Shakespeare: Cannibalized and Cannibalizer

Shakespeare was malleable in every way aesthetically and ethically.

William Shakespeare: Cannibalized and Cannibalizer

There are two reasons that I can think of immediately for why Shakespeare is extremely malleable, not just malleable as an ideological tool, but malleable in every way aesthetically and ethically.  The first is that he wanted it that way.  He seems to have understood very, very early on in his career that it was in his interest commercially for one thing, maybe for more than commercial reasons, to make his texts open and assessable to change.  


Not everyone thought so.  Shakespeare’s contemporary, Ben Jonson, tried to make sure that everyone performed things exactly as he wrote them and he resented the idea of performance. But Shakespeare seems to have grasped early on that his own survival in every sense depended on opening himself up to being cannibalized, just as he cannibalized other people.  

The plays were transformed, re-imagined and remetabolized. Many of them are too long for performance in an ordinary afternoon in London so they were met to be cut, almost certainly. But the plays are also open in lots of other ways.  And they have titles like “As You Like It,” or the sub-title, “Twelfth Night, What you Will” or “Much Ado About Nothing” or simply open names like “Hamlet” that you can push in different directions.  

So the first thing to say is that I think that he meant the plays to be quite open and the second thing to say is that he wrote in a fairly ruthlessly censoring culture and he was alert to the fact that if you wanted to address some of the most important issues, not simply local topical issues, but broader issues of human significance in his time, he had to do so in a way that would allow multiple messages.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less

Every 27.5 million years, the Earth’s heart beats catastrophically

Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.

Credit: desertsolitaire/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
  • Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
  • Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

Galactic wind from early universe detected

Researchers discovered a galactic wind from a supermassive black hole that sheds light on the evolution of galaxies.

Quantcast