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Roman Remains

by Theodore Dalrymple 

It is often said that we know nothing of Shakespeare’s personal views. This is largely because he had such a genius for expressing almost every possible human type from within, as it were, as if he had experienced everybody’s thoughts and emotions for himself and as his own; and, just as we supposedly cannot know the true personality of an endlessly versatile actor because he is always playing a part, so (it is supposed) we cannot know what a man thought who was able to see every question from every possible angle, and who never once appeared in his own guise or spoke in his own voice. Moreover, his plays show moral problems; they do not preach their solutions. Shakespeare never thumps a tub, or buttonholes you like a drunk at a cocktail party.
I think, however, that the unknowability of Shakespeare’s views can be exaggerated. We can safely deduce, for example, that he was not puritanical in his views, but neither was he an amoralist. In politics, likewise, he was neither a utopian nor a complete cynic.  more...