Hughes on shakespeare

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3 Scopus citations


Oscar Wilde remarked that criticism is the only civilized form of autobiography, while Virginia Woolf believed that all Shakespearean criticism is as much about the critic’s self as the dramatist’s plays. Shakespeare is a mirror in which serious readers and spectators see sharpened images of themselves and their own worlds.Shakespeare was the absolute centre of Ted Hughes’s sense of the English literary tradition. The plays were a major influence on his own poetry, in terms of both linguistic intensity and thematic preoccupation. The world of Hughes’s verse is one in which, as Macbeth puts it, ‘light thickens, and the crow / Makes wing to the rooky wood’. More than any other poet, Shakespeare assaulted Hughes — one of the great literary readers of the twentieth century — with the shock of the as-if-new. An unpublished journal entry dated 22 January 1998 begins ‘The idea of flamingoes. Of clam-dippers. Read with amazement: “Mine eye hath played the painter and hath stell’d” as if I’d never seen it before’. This is what Hughes did throughout his life: read Shakespeare with amazement, as if he had never read him before. The key to Shakespearean acting is to speak each line as if it were being spoken for the first time, as if it were new minted from the thought-chamber of the character who utters it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationTed Hughes
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780511979163
ISBN (Print)9780521197526
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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