Saturday, February 6, 2016

Filthy Shakespeare - Pauline Kiernan

A Shakespeare play - any Shakespeare play! - is a palimpsest, which also just happens to be my favourite aspect of his work. Therefore, any critical work pertaining to the multiple layers of subtext - peeling off meaning and finding new meaning beneath - is always interesting, to my mind.

Moreover, the ribald aspect of Elizabethan humour, and the Bard in particular, is often overlooked by contemporary criticism. As a consequence, some of Kiernan's analyses feel a bit overwrought, but it's hard to determine whether that's because we are not used to seeing allusions to fucking, genitalia or venereal disease in great literature, or because she actually does take it a bit far.

Fascinating, at any rate, to have her demonstrate how the bawdy undermeaning in, for instance, Hamlet's ramblings add meaning to his actions while reflecting his confused and dismal thoughts. For indeed not all his sexual innuendo served as a comic device - and even when it did, it still contributed to an impressive insight into the human condition, which is why his work still feels so modern.

A rich index with frequent pun words, a number of extracts from plays analysed and pertinent information on 17th century London! 
Wicked, in every sense of the word!

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