Shakespeare: Writer of the Globe

March 06, 2013
Trey Price '13

Paul CanterOn February 20, I attended a lecture by Dr. Paul Cantor, Clifton Waller Barrett Professor at the University of Virginia, who spoke on Shakespeare, a common topic for many literature scholars. However, what was unique about Dr. Cantor's talk was his focus on Shakespeare as a writer of the globe. Rather than addressing the topics of the playwright's famous works, he strove to universalize him, to shape our view of Shakespeare as a political mover, applicable in societal constructs as far reaching as Japanese feudalism.

Dr. Cantor's play on words with the title of his lecture was immediately seen, as Shakespeare's obvious position as a writer of the Globe Theatre evolved into a position of writing literally for the globe, or in other words, the world. Shakespeare's works captivate audiences, regardless of language or nationality. His political philosophy is used both as a tool and as a resource.

After expressing his appreciation for Shakespeare performed in the German language, Dr. Cantor described his first encounter with the rendering of plays in German and then moved into what I saw to be two key points in his lecture. First, Dr. Cantor recited the first three lines of Hamlet in German, expressing the beauty he saw in it. In essence, what Dr. Cantor hoped to achieve through this short monologue was to show students how Shakespeare's writing was not adapted simply because of its importance in the study of English literature. It is relevant across geographical borders and traditional barriers of time and place. Shakespeare is beautiful in almost every language, even when only one individual is in the audience, which brings me to his next point.

Dr. Cantor seemed all too happy when he described his choice to attend a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Europe on a night when there was a hotly contested local soccer match.  As could be guessed by the chuckling in the room, everyone understood the prominence of soccer in the popular culture of European nations. Dr. Cantor informed us that he was, in fact, the only person in the audience that night. However, he argued that had it been any other night, he perhaps would not have had such an intensely personal experience.  The experience of each individual, whether in an Elizabethan or a contemporary audience, is a reaction to one's own unique situation.  Individuals and audiences see in Shakespeare not a representation of the past but a comment on the contemporary.

Before wrapping up, Dr. Cantor made one last point. When he was watching a Shakespearean drama in Asia, he was told that there were twelve other theatres showing the play at the same time. In effect, Dr. Cantor offered just another piece of evidence as to why we call Shakespeare the true writer of the actual globe, not simply the Globe Theatre.