I once made the mistake of sharing my dislike for Thomas Hardy with a teacher (I dislike quite a few of those authors you’re supposed to like) and she turned to me and said: “you can’t say that! That’s like saying you don’t like Shakespeare or something!” And yet, I hated Shakespeare when I was in school. English lessons were spent going through Macbeth at a painstakingly slow pace: translating word-for-word until the meaning was lost.
You can acknowledge a writer’s cleverness, contribution to Psychology, that the literary canon is essentially based on them without actually enjoying their writing. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in a name which has essentially become a brand that everything he ever touched is deemed a masterpiece. Some of his stuff isn’t brilliant: I think it’s about time we admitted that, no?
It’s interesting though, when somebody says that they dislike Shakespeare, how the common assumption is that they simply don’t understand him. They’re missing something. And maybe some of them are, his language is different from ours, the topics are complex, but it’s a lazy assumption to think that he’s the greatest writer we have and only uncultured people don’t like him.
I guess you could say that I admire him from a distance. I love some of his plays and sonnets: they're just brilliant. Some of his other stuff, however, I always find wouldn't really be as loved as it is if it didn't have his name attached to it. Yes, it's wonderful that we're celebrating him but I also think it’s about time we stopped insisting that everybody should love his work. "But it's Shakespeare!" shouldn't be a valid response to someone saying they didn't like something he wrote.Let me know what you think – I’m so interested to see if anyone else agrees with me…..or if I’ve just alienated all of my readers! (Hopefully not…!)