matt sturges

If none of us even know what the hell Shakespeare is talking about a good deal of the time, who can truly say that they ‘appreciate’ Shakespeare? And if it’s only the obnoxious guy who starts all his sentences with the world 'Actually…’ and goes out of his way to correct more-honored-in-the-breach-than-the-observance failures like me, then what good is Shakespeare?

I guess the best answer is that, as with so many things, with Shakespeare you get out exactly what you put in. You can enjoy the pretty words, or you can smile at the Bugs Bunny cartoons, half-realizing that something deeper is at play. You can struggle through Hamlet and tell yourself you accomplished something, even if you’re not quite sure what it was. You can put your mind to it and study hard, read aloud with your friends in a room that smells like mulled cider. You can devote your life to it and tease out every subtle pleasure (up to and including snarkily pointing out the cognoscenti’s errors). And it doesn’t matter, because ultimately there is no final arbiter, no judge. As Hamlet himself says, 'there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’ (2.2.244-245).

Of course, he also says that he can tell a hawk from a handsaw when the wind comes from the south, so, you know, grain of salt.

—  Matt Sturges, “I Know A Hawk From A Handsaw," Living With Shakespeare: Essays By Writers, Actors, and Directors