Something occurred to me this weekend, while mowing the lawn.
How come when a movie actor wants to portray his project as having quality, he’ll say that it’s like Shakespeare (I’m thinking of the Spiderman reboot, although there are other examples)… but if you went up to the average moviegoer and said “Hey, you want to go see a Shakespeare movie?” most of them would look at you like you were crazy? It’s as if “like Shakespeare” means “very good”, but “actual Shakespeare” means “I won’t like it.”
My theory is that it has to do with our own lack of confidence in ourselves. We’ve all been taught that Shakespeare is the pinnacle of literature. The best of the best. So to compare yourself to such a high standard inherently puts you up there near it, at least. And that’s pretty good.
But, at the same time, we also think that Shakespeare is therefore out of our own reach. That it is too difficult for us to understand. We fear that we will not be able to appreciate it, to discuss it and offer our opinions afterward. So pre-emptively we decide that just wouldn’t like it to begin with.
That makes me sad. People want “like Shakespeare”. But they’re afraid of actual Shakespeare, because they don’t think they can handle it. I wonder how to bridge that gap?