In this first criticism, Goethe expresses his admiration for Shakespearean works, even going so far as to say that it brought him out of a blind darkness and awakened his spirit. I found the opening very interesting, how the author explains the sort of futility of life and human goals. I feel like the author looks to Shakespeare as the only man who has actually “continued to exist even after destiny has returned him to a state of non-existence.” Not only this but, but the author may even see Shakespeare as an aid in helping himself work towards this impossible task, which is why Goethe became “a slave of Shakespeare for life.” Some of my favorite quotes and points included:
The author’s pity for those “free spirits [who] were still cowering there.”
How Shakespeare founded the “historical-political” genre, and how the author says “whether or not the honor of being originator falls to Shakespeare, it was he who raised this type of drama to a level that we must still take to be highest, totally beyond the imagination of most.”
How the author compares Shakespeare to Greek figures: “Shakespeare competes with Prometheus, imitating him by forming human beings feature by feature, but on a colossal scale- that is why we don’t recognize them as our brothers.”
Also, how the author puts down philosophers in the middle of the criticism but then claims Shakespeare can do all that he does as well as what philosophers do. He can do it all!
Goethe’s admiration was definitely evident throughout the piece.
Hawkes, too, understands the significance of Shakespeare, but looks at his works, and Hamlet in particular, and how they have become such large phenomena (my favorite line was when Hawkes used the term “the creature ‘Shakespeare’”). I enjoyed reading this excerpt because, although I was lost with some parts at the opening, the middle and later parts were parallel to my thoughts on why Shakespearean plays are so important and fascinating to read and watch. For Hamlet, Hawkes explains that the play “determines how we perceive and respond to the world in which we live.” Though we do not go on ghost-incited quests of avenging the murder of our fathers, we can learn from the relationships and morals that we see in the play. To abridge Hawkes’s list, we can learn of morals, relationships, perceptions of the sexes, family, behaviors, and interactions. The combination of this wide array of messages and a thrilling plot serve as an explanation of the longevity of Shakespearean works, Adding on to Hawkes’s perspective, I would say that the plot and story merely serve to entertain and are merely a means by which to deliver these universal messages. And while I do agree wholeheartedly that we have found much more meaning in these plays than can have been intended by Shakespeare, I still find this hunting and gathering fascinating and worthwhile; as long as the audience can benefit, does it really matter if it was part of the playwright’s intentions?