It certainly is the case that Shakespeare has been the darling of an extraordinarily weird array of people.
It certainly is the case that Shakespeare has been the darling of an extraordinarily weird array of people -- whether it’s Brecht on the one hand, for the communists, or the people who embraced Shakespeare largely because of the “Merchant of Venice,” for the Nazis. So we have a phenomenon in which a wild array of people, people who would and did happily kill each other, nonetheless looked to Shakespeare as a source.
Shakespeare was malleable in every way aesthetically and ethically.
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.
Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt tells Big Think that Shakespeare inhabited a world in which "it's much more possible to express homosexual passion and inact that passion without triggering a social crisis."
Stephen Jay Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of thirteen books, including The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve; The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning.
Greenblatt is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is a founding editor of the journal Representations. His honors include the 2016 Holberg Prize from the Norwegian Parliament, the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award for The Swerve, MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize (twice), Harvard University’s Cabot Fellowship, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, Yale’s Wilbur Cross Medal, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley.
Among his named lecture series are the Adorno Lectures in Frankfurt, the University Lectures at Princeton, and the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford, and he has held visiting professorships at universities in Beijing, Kyoto, London, Paris, Florence, Torino, Trieste, and Bologna, as well as the Renaissance residency at the American Academy in Rome. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and a long-term fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. He has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the American Philosophical Society.