william SHAKESPEARE’S UNIVERSALITY

shakespeare universalim

 

  • Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all times.
  • Shakespeare has accepted dross and the gold, the beauty And the ugliness.
  • The human soul in intense emotion has expressed itself in his works, and men and women, irrespective of age and clime, have found in them an echo of their own emotions.
  • Shakespeare is a greater dramatist than Ibsen or Shaw not “by being a greater dramatist but by being a greater poet.
  • Life and love are inextricably intertwined in Shakespeare’s vision, both in the tragedies and the comedies.
  • Shakespeare’s vision of life, his wonderful characterization, his broad humanity, his sense of humor and tolerance, his catholicity of outlook, his dramatic art have all found an eloquent expression in his magnificent poetry.

The great German philosopher Goethe once remarked about Shakespeare: “He is man who presents us golden apples in silvery dishes hut unfortunately we don’t try to understand them and take them as red potatoes and eat them up in one gulp.” Shakespeare, has easily transcended time arid” space.. Ben Jonson appreciated the universal appeal of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. He says: “He was not of an age, but for all times. “Shakespeare is not just a poet of England, but of mankind. And yet, whatever else he was, Shakespeare was not a reformer. Shakespeare was lender and borrower too. He liberally borrowed from the accepted dramatic conventions of his age. Shakespeare did not break with tradition.

He is essentially a poet of life. Shakespeare has accepted dross and the gold, the beauty and the ugliness. He has the supreme power of inclusiveness. A fine product of Renaissance, Shakespeare loves life. Nothing human is alien to him. It is in this acceptance of life in its totality that we trace one of the clues to Shakespeare’s universality. He has, as a critic pointed out, his age finely rolling life and joy in living. Historical or realistic critics’ refuses to appreciate Shakespeare at the ideal level of imagination since they always relate him to his Elizabethan environment. But the real Shakespeare is not just another Elizabethan. He is a poet of the eternal verities, the consonants, the eternal passion, the eternal pain.

 

The human soul in intense emotion has expressed itself in his works, and men and women, irrespective of age and clime, have found in them an echo of their own emotions – their laughter and tears, passions and prejudices, longings and aspirations. Shakespearean plays are not ephemera] or idles songs of an empty day. They have such revealing properties as are hardly to be found anywhere else. They go beneath the surface of the human story and evoke, isolate or distil whatever element of timeless beauty and truth they may possess. They are, no doubt, realistic presentations of life. They are a meditation upon or spiritual illumination of life.

Human tastes change, values change, and literary standards are never sacrosanct. Most of the Elizabethan, Jacobean and Restoration dramatists and writers are often not thought worthy of serious consideration. But the case is not the same with Shakespeare. He has not been lost in Oblivion-The general interest in Shakespeare is not on the wane. Even it is now felt that “the Shakespearean flood submerges all but the strongest swimmers and makes it increasingly difficult to Isee Shakespeare steadily and see him whole.”

All the literature loving groups are falling deep, deep in love with Shakespeare. Though in form and content Shakespeare’s plays are not in keeping with local tradition, but emotionally we feel akin to them.

Poetry has an irresistible appeal to all minds. Poetic drama, therefore, captures our mind much more than prose drama. Morley says, “Poetic dramas have been walking for tears in the corridors of time.” This is not true of Shakespeare alone. It is true of all great poets throughout the world. The touch of poetry is the touch of Nature that makes the whole world kin.Shakespeare is a greater dramatist than Ibsen or Shaw not by being a greater dramatist but by being a greater poet.

Had Shakespeare written in prose, as did Ibsen, Shaw, Stridberg or Galsworthy, he would have outlived his importance today. Critics agree that the audience of the Elizabethan age did influence Shakespeare. The dramatist Shakespeare, therefore, was amenable to the influence of the age; but the poet Shakespeare transcended his age and expressed the beauties and truths of eternity. Poetry, the supreme expression of imagination, therefore, has a universal appeal.

universalim

 

Shakespeare’s universality also consists in his broad humanity. He never sits in judgment upon his fellow men. A man, he believes, is a man for all that. Shakespeare is never carried away by indignation. Not a social reformer or a stern moralist, he never seeks to convert his reader or audience to his point of view, for he has none. Shakespeare has never thought of using his plays as a convenient pulpit from which to deliver sermons. Shakespeare has always a friendly approach to man, with all his baseness, and limitations.

Shakespeare is / profoundly shocked to find man’s inhumanity. Charity, tolerance, and forgiveness are his cardinal precepts, while intolerance and revenge are anathema^ Shakespeare has embraced man with all his faults and imperfections. It is this tolerance that has made him so popular all over the world.

Every play of Shakespeare presents the playwright’s view of life. Forgiveness is undoubtedly the dominant theme of most of his works. Many of the characters who had legitimate founds for revenge are softened into pity towards the end. That is the keynote of the mature plays in general and the last plays in particular, where Shakespeare emerged out of the depths of man’s cruelty and passion, intrigues and violence, and in the mellow autumn of life, was on the height of life.

Shakespeare was a moralist, but a conventional one. He had his ethical sense, without which society, the sum total of human values, would crumble. Despite the absence of poetic justice, and that is a virtue rather than a glaring defect, Shakespeare has implicit faith in a moral order. Villains, however prosperous at the beginning, have to pay the penalty in the long run. God men at times have, no doubt, to suffer, but that suffering is the outcome of the tragic flaw. It is this triumph of the moral order that is one of the secrets of Shakespeare’s universal appeal. He never talks like a bishop nor does he give free rein to man’s baser instincts. He retains the sanity of good sense, and that has an irresistible appeal to man.

Life is Shakespeare’s capital. Unlike the theologians of the Middle Ages, Shakespeare never turns his back upon life. It is this intense love of life with all its colors and beauty that has made his works so ravishly fascinating/There are a very few characters in Shakespeare’s plays, particularly in his comedies, who have recoiled from life. The wicked men and women are, of course, enemies of life. In tragedies, one or two heroes are sick of life, for they have passed through excruciating agony. Life and love are inextricably intertwined in Shakespeare’s vision, both in the tragedies and the comedies. Love is one of the fundamental instincts of man, shared by the kings living in palaces and the peasants in their humble huts.*Shakespeare, the chronicler of life, has realized this supreme truth, and that explains his immense popularity.

Human nature has not changed, although there have been revolutionary changes in our material aspects. Empires have fallen and risen; social and economic orders have undergone sea changes, but the same heartbeats can be heard through the centuries. Shakespearean plays are a record of those eternal heartbeats. It is also a bold affirmation of the eternal and undying values of man’s unconquerable mind. It is his poetry that has an enduring quality. Shakespeare’s vision of life, his wonderful characterization, his broad humanity, his sense of humor and tolerance, his catholicity of outlook, his dramatic art have all found an eloquent expression in his magnificent poetry. That is the very why Shaw admitted that he wished, he could write a play like that of Shakespeare’s.

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