12th June 2012: Shakespeare, real thing

When I compared Martin’s A Dance With Dragons to Shakespeare’s history plays, some people got all bent out of shape by the comparison, and it took me ages to understand why. I was indeed comparing Martin to Shakespeare, because they were doing some of the same things, and using some of the same history to do things in different ways. I was comparing what Martin’s doing with council scenes and with the Wars of the Roses to what Shakespeare does with them. (The key play for ASoI&F is the three part Henry VI. Martin has clearly been influenced by it.)

To me, though, Shakespeare is a writer whose work I know, like all the other writers whose work I know. He’s amazingly good, but he’s also a real writer who made choices and dealt with material. But the people who huffily said it was ridiculous of me to compare Martin to Shakespeare know literally nothing about Shakespeare except that he was wonderful. They thought that by making the comparison I was saying that Martin was superlatively good, as good as Shakespeare, because that’s really all that Shakespeare means to them, excellence in literature. They have heard of Shakespeare, and they know he’s marvellous, but he’s entirely out of their own experience. They are like Keats before he read Chapman’s Homer, “oft of one wide expanse had I been told…”

So now I understand their reaction, and hope they manage to encounter some Shakespeare soon.

Posted in Books, Theatre