Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We scarcely know for ourselves, let alone for a person who lived four hundred years ago, how someone acquires a particular vocational desire. Will's love of language, his sensitivity to spectacle, and a certain erotic thrill in make-believe may all have played a part in drawing him to the stage. But, in the light of Shakespeare's family circumstances—a mother who could trace her family to the important Ardens of Park Hall, a father who had risen in the world only to sink down again—the focus of Elizabethan theatrical impersonation is deeply suggestive. Will may have been attracted to the trade of acting in part because it so centrally involved the miming of the lives of the gentry. As a practical strategy, this was, of course, absurd: becomng an actor or even a playwright was probably the worst imaginable route toward social advancement, something like becoming a whore in order to become a great lady. But as the legends of whores who become great ladies suggest, there is at work in certain professions a powerful mimetic magic. Onstage Shakespeare could be the person that his mother and father said he was and that he felt himself to be.

--Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World

The Greenblatt is, of course, speculation rather than fact, but fascinating nonetheless. I'm a mere two chapters in and intend to read it slowly.

Harold Bloom says King Lear is a play that never fails to defeat its actors and directors; I'm looking forward to seeing it nonetheless and am grateful to be prompted into a rereading. We'll be tackling Act III today.

Finished Allegra Goodman's Intuition yesterday. I quite liked it despite the fact that Goodman uses my number one pet peeve in writing: the viewpoint that shifts from paragraph to paragraph. I prefer to stick with one character's perspective throughout a chapter or scene instead of being compelled to skitter madly about among the thoughts of everyone at every party or social event. Still, reading about biological research and lab work, especially in the hands of a writer who references John Donne and Oscar Wilde, is good fun.

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