This week Ira Glass, host of NPR’s This American Life tweeted his response to the Public Theater’s production of King Lear:
@JohnLithgow as Lear tonight: amazing. Shakespeare: not good. No stakes, not relatable. I think I'm realizing: Shakespeare sucks.
— Ira Glass (@iraglass) July 28, 2014
A great number of tweets, articles, and chatter erupted in response. You can find a nice catalog of the responses in The Internet is Freaking Out About Ira Glass Saying Shakespeare Sucks which includes some professional as well as some hilarious responses, “Ira Glass had better not dis my man Molière, yo”. In CBC’s Ira Glass says Shakespeare Sucks and the Internet Promptly Explodes we can find some context and also the supporters of Shakespeare Suck.
Some recent articles detail other attackers of the bard. The Guardian’s response gives a list of various famous people (from Voltaire to Tolstoy) who spoke out against Shakespeare. George Bernard Shaw even wrote, “With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely… It would be positively a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him.” Writing for the New Republic Adam Kirsch tells of many who’ve shared Glass’ opinion but states on no uncertain terms that they are all wrong. In response to the idea of Shakespeare being “unrelatable” Kirsch looks at our culture as becoming less and less skilled at interacting with stories. He writes, “We can only appreciate these stories if we imagine our way into them, rather than demanding that they come obediently to us.”
Other news for Shakespeare this week has profoundly affirmed his influence. The members of the UN saw a performance of Hamlet on its way to every country on this planet. It’s part of an ongoing celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday, but it is also a dramatic telling of the influence and importance of Shakespeare’s stories around the Globe. Public Radio International says that the influence of Shakespeare goes far beyond the number of wors he coined. For their show they interview David Crystal, “Shakespeare teaches us to dare to be creative, to push the rules a little bit. If the word isn’t there, make one up.” And even a piece for the Huffington Post about the adaptation of the film, “Shakespeare in Love” for the stage leaves Lee Hall gasping at the beauty of Shakespeare’s language. When asked if the production is a musical he answers that it is in a way. It’s songs are glorious chunks of Elizabethan poetry.
Following up on Ira Glass’ tweet, here’s what Entertainment Weekly had to say. “We asked Ira Glass if he does indeed believe Shakespeare sucks, and this is what he said: ‘That was kind of an off-the-cuff thing to say that in the cold light of day, I’m not sure I can defend at all.”’