Time to Move Beyond the Cult of Shakespeare

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A dogma is defined as "a principal tenet, or system of these, especially as laid down by the authority of a Church." In the

traditional sense, a Church of Shakespeare does not exist. However, over the last three hundred years scholars and critics have

spurred Shakespeare's transcendence into a sort of Elizabethan-era god. No longer is he 'William Shakespeare, playwright.' He

is now 'The Bard.' Bardolatry's presence in the world of literature has grown with each essay and book defending the

traditional views of Shakespeare as an infallible master of language. There are buildings and troupes devoted to the production

of his plays, while millions of people come together at conference tables and workshops designed to discuss the messages and

lessons laid down in the holy Shakespearean canon.

This set of attitudes prevents scholars, students, and average citizens alike from understanding Shakespeare's play as dramatic

works and not dogmatic texts. Critics and scholars are so compelled to protect the Bard's gospel they miss the historical event

and personal issues surrounding Shakespeare's dramas (Charney 9). Issues such as his economic status at the time of his

writing, the restrictions on the theater by the monarchy, and the influence of current events on his work are widely ignored.

Concepts such as dramatic interpretation and creative license are considered heresy to followers of The Bard. These individuals

are so obsessed with the dissection of the literature itself that they ignore the wide range of conflicting arguments that give

credibility to creative Shakespearean interpretations. Bardolatry has effectively clouded many eyes from the greatest truth

behind Shakespeare's plays: they are dramatic works written by a talented playwright.

The many historical, political, and economic circumstances surrounding the writing of Shakespeare's plays make it difficult to

believe he wrote the works with the intent to establish a school of followers. The only playwright/writer to inspire reverence in

Shakespeare's day was Ben Jonson, and it is therefore likely Shakespeare died neither knowing, nor caring about the ways in

which his works would be valued by future generations (Shoenbaum 60). Furthermore, the way in which Shakespeare's work

surfaced in print, first with the various quartos and then finally in the First Folio after his death, does not evoke an emphasis on

posterity. Had Shakespeare's good friends John Heminges and Henry Condell not collected the works for that Folio,

Shakespeare's works may have never survived the ages at all (Wells and Taylor 34).

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