Shakespeare as the mirror of nature

After Allan Bloom says something, there’s little else to be said. The excerpt below offers the most perspicacious insight on Shakespeare that I’ve read.

Shakespeare seems to be the mirror of nature and to present human beings just as they are. His poetry gives us the eyes to see what is there. The difference between Shakespeare and the Romantics is measured by the utter absence of didacticism in him. There is no intention in him to reconstruct the soul in order to make a place for human meaning, or to establish ideals in an ideal-less world, or to save the family and its relations from the corrosive of bourgeois rationalism. In short, Shakespeare has no project for the betterment or salvation of mankind. This does not mean that, in general, he did not believe that the truth would benefit men, but he did not think that the artist is defined as the man of responsibility. His plays remind us of the classical goal of contemplation rather than the modern aspiration to transform. Shakespeare did not consider himself the legislator of mankind. He faithfully records man’s problems and does not evidently propose to solve them. It is not accurate to describe him as a genius or a creator. He is much too immersed in the wonders of nature to focus on himself as the most important being in it. He does not try to create as did the Romantics; he tries to record nature. . . . Shakespeare is practically our only link with the classic and the past. The future of education has much to do with whether we will be able to cling to him or not.

Shakespeare on Love and Friendship (University of Chicago Press, 2000)


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