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Harold Bloom on reading Shakespeare


Active member
Some excepts

"We have to read Shakespeare, and we have to study Shakespeare. We have to study Dante. We have to read Chaucer. We have to read Cervantes. We have to read the Bible, at least the King James Bible. We have to read certain authors...They provide an intellectual, I dare say, a spiritual value which has nothing to do with organized religion or the history of institutional belief. They remind us in every sense of re-minding us. They not only tell us things that we have forgotten, but they tell us things we couldn't possibly know without them, and they reform our minds. They make our minds stronger. They make us more vital. They make us alive...Shakespeare is universal. Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage...I don't know who Shakespeare was. He has hidden himself behind all of these extraordinary men and women...One cares about wisdom, and in the end one wants to be judged by wisdom. If one hasn't got it, one has to ask the biblical question "Where shall wisdom be found?' And I suppose, for me, the answer is: wisdom is to be found in Shakespeare, provided you get at it in the right way."

"Shakespeare will not make us better, and he will not make us worse, but he may teach us how to overhear ourselves when we talk to ourselves...he may teach us how to accept change in ourselves as in others, and perhaps even the final form of change."

"You know, there are certain inescapable books that I really do feel all of us should read as early as possible. What does education mean if it does not expose children and young people to Shakespeare and Cervantes and Dante?
To fall in love with great poetry when you are young is to be awakened to the self's potential, in a way that has little to do, initially, with overt knowing. The self's potential as power involves the self's immortality, not as duration but as the awakening to a knowledge of something in the self that cannot die, because it was never born."

(I think, all this applies to the Indian classics as well)
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"It may be a waning art, the art of reading closely, lovingly, scrupulously with the excitement of seeing how the text will unfold."

"Criticism starts - it has to start - with a real passion for reading. It can come in adolescence, even in your twenties, but you must fall in love with poems. You must fall in love with what we used call 'imaginative literature.' And when you are in love that way, with or without provocation from good teachers, you will pass on to encountering what used to be called the sublime. And as soon as you do this, you pass into the agonistic mode, even if your own nature is anything but agonistic. In the end, the spirit that makes one a fan of a particular athlete or a particular team is different only in degree, not in kind, from the spirit that teaches one to prefer one poet to another, or one novelist to another. That is to say there is some element of competition at every point in one's experience as a reader. How could there not be? Perhaps you learn this more fully as you get older, but in the end you choose between books, or you choose between poems, the way you choose between people. You can't become friends with every acquaintance you make, and I would not think that it is any different with what you read."

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