Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Classism in Shakespeare's England

On my visit to the Shakespeare Unauthorized exhibit at the Boston Public Library, there was one particular segment that caught my attention and surprised me. Despite the fact that, for most students today, Shakespeare is seen as one of the greatest, if not, the greatest playwright in history, the exhibit showed that his reputation was not always this way.

In his day, someone with his humble background, coming from a provincial family and no university education, would be seen by his peers as automatically intellectually inferior to the more learned aristocracy. Even the brilliance of Shakespeare was dimmed by his low-class upbringing, showing how important class was at this point in history. The exhibit showed an example of this portrayal of Shakespeare with a copy of The History of the Worthies of England, a series of biographies of notable Englishmen which included the first ever biography of Shakespeare. In it, the author, James Fuller, humanizes Shakespeare not only by mentioning his poor roots but also by depicting him as a frequenter of ale houses and a person who was "unrefined" by English social standards of the time. This is a very interesting and, ultimately, sad part of the history of Shakespeare, as it reflects the terrible classism that affected every facet of English life and even managed to make the most brilliant playwright of his generation look undignified.

No comments:

Post a Comment