What Mr. Nichols was referring to is the BIG IDEA that William Shakespeare ( with his complex characterizations of men and women and their triumphs and tragedies against backgrounds of power, compromise and fancy etc.) — painted a portrait so brilliant of modern man and woman, that civilization stepped into the portrait. The conception of man rendered by Shakespeare became western man.
This was a concept espoused for many years and still is by Yale professor, Harold Bloom, who is a Shakespeare scholar and comes just this side of deifying the Bard.
Yes, of course, there were the esteemed Greeks and Romans who had painted man with a fine and ironic palette — but they had not suffered through seven hundred years of the dark ages. Fictional men were land grabbing barbarians or kings and then they died. Fictional women were good for child-bearing and then they, too, died. Along came the renaissance and, later William Shakespeare. Through his intuitiveness with poetry and theatrics , he shined on humankind a most brilliant light . No one fully knows of Shakespeare’s religious beliefs yet TIME Magazine maintains there are 1400 Biblical references in his collected works. Many scholars believe the Bard helped in 1611 with the translations associated with the King James Version of the Bible. One of is most quoted passages “What a piece of work is man” is a loving homage to Psalm 8, according to scholars.
As this is Valentine’s Day, no other single storyteller created a more impactful view of romantic love than William Shakespeare. Is there anything more beautiful than his rendering of Juliet and her Romeo? For centuries, this romance and its highly charged,electric language has touched people is such a way that the very essence of tragic love seemed to be etched on our hearts before we ever saw or read it. It’s as if the play reads our hearts due to its transformational manner. As Harold Bloom mystically says, “You don’t read Shakespeare, Shakespeare reads you.”
My favorite movie version of Romeo And Juliet remains the interpretation directed by Franco Zeffirelli. It stars Olivia Hussey as Juliet. Ms. Hussey’s performance spills over in radiant youth and her multi-faceted performance carries the mark of angel, lover, bride, reaper and poet. My good friend, producer Ileen Maisel has just made a new medieval version of the classic love story starring the gifted, Hailee Steinfeld , who was nominated for an oscar for her performance in True Grit. As Ileen’s version will not be available until later this year, I have posted the balcony scene from Zeffirelli’s version. The wonder of the Shakespeare’s remarkable words and Ms. Hussey’s lovely performance still stand strong against time. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May someone sweet to you say words as beautiful as these…