Thursday, December 8, 2011

Uses of Shakespeare

There's been an interesting discussion, here
about whether it's worthwhile to read/hear/experience the plays of William Shakespeare. The answer: Of course it is!

The first thing to understand about the Bard and his plays is that he was a "pop" writer. His works are graphic novels with better language. They're melodramatic, over-the-top. They push the bounds of emotion in ways no "literary" writer today does.

There are two ways of writing fiction.

1.) Subjective. The "literary." Stream-of-consciousness, meaning, most of the work takes place in the writer's or a character's head. It's self-conscious and solipsistic to the max. A slog to read and not much fun when you do read it.

2.) Objective. This is what a playwright like Shakespeare does. You see characters from the outside. Character is revealed through action, words, and plot.

I've been trying to pull my fiction in the #2 direction. Graphic novels without the graphics. I visualize my tales as scenes, dramas, comic books. My goal is to thrust my characters into dramatic situations, and then make room for them to speak.

I do this a little in several stories in my ebook Ten Pop Stories. Do you know which ones? I do it some in "Bluebird" in Mood Detroit. I do it more in Crime City USA.

I'm doing it way more in the novel I'm currently writing, the subject of which is revolution. I give the plutocrat, on one hand, and the most radical radical, on the other hand, room to explain themselves. They're given what are in effect short speeches. I want the written picture combined with speech.

What's the goal? To create strong emotion. Like pop singers do. Like "Sadness Is a Blessing" by Lykke Li. Emotion is all.

I remember, about fifteen years ago, in Detroit, reading a text about classic comic strips of the past. The book showed a few panels from "Terry and the Pirates," in which the Dragon Lady has captured one of the square-jawed heroes, who's handcuffed. As the hero sleeps, the Dragon Lady leans over him-- clearly in love with him-- and recites verse that could only come from Shakespeare. From "Romeo and Juliet" I later found out. "Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!" I could only think, "Wow!" It's romantic. It's melodramatic. It's ridiculous. It's art.

Ever since that time, I've wanted to create that same kind of aesthetic effect. Simple, very simple, yet very powerful.

At his best, Shakespeare creates such effects. In a masterpiece like "King Lear"-- a masterpiece not just of literature but of all art-- he creates those effects in spades.

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