The Bard and a Blustery Blowhole

It is Saturday afternoon and I am listening to Wynton Marsalis playing Stadust on his horn. I am drinking Sofie, a tart Belgian Style Ale from Goose Island and I am reading the current (May 2011) Vanity Fair. I am suddenly struck by an off-handed pejorative comment in a VF article (again).

The current Vanity Fair magazine issue contains a column by contributing editor John Heilpern. The “Out To Lunch” one page piece is titled Avon Calling. This sounds interesting. But, wait.

The article relates Heilpern’s recent interview of Professor Harold Bloom at Bloom’s home in New Haven. Bloom, a professor of humanities at Yale for the past 55 years, is a well-known Shakespeare scholar. He has studied and read Shakespeare’s work in great depth. His latest book, number 39 in a series of scholarly works is titled The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life. (I am currently reading Bloom’s book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human.)

In the interview Bloom’s talks about his respect for Shakespeare:

“If Shakespeare is not God, he told Heilpern, “I don’t know what God is.” And, regarding Shakespeare’s biographers, “Let me quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, best mind to come out of America: ‘Shakespeare is the only biographer of Shakespeare.’ In other words, don’t look for the man in the work; look for the work in the man. And stop speculating about his life.”

Further in the interview, Bloom: “All high concept Shakespeare directors should be shot a dawn,” Later, Heilpern mentions Al Pacino’s and F. Murray Abraham’s New York performances of Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) saying that Abraham is the greatest Shylock he’d ever seen. (Recently, March, Abraham was Shylock at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago.)

The interview brushes on the topic of Falstaff. Bloom: “Sir John Falstaff…even more than Hamlet – and that’s saying something – he’s the most intelligent person in all of literature. He has the best mind, the best wit, the most beautiful laughing language. As my late friend the marvelous critic George Wilson Knight said about Hamlet, he’s the embassy of death. But Falstaff is life! Falstaff is blessing.”

Prince Hal and Falstaff’s banishment are mentioned and then Bloom says, “Falstaff sees through the all-powerful. ““He sees through everything. He’s the best possible guide to the state of the world today. Can you think of anyone more antithetical to the Fascism of the Tea Party than Sir John Falstaff?”

What?! Why the sniping Tea Party comment? Wait. I think I know why the old fart and gassy pontificator Bloom, learned disciple of Falstaff and urbane liberal, looks down upon the Tea Party from his ivory tower:
“He’s a drunk, a liar, and a cheat. Yet he’s been glowingly described as “the personification of England”. He’ll do anything with a debt but honour it, and makes light of accepting bribes from fit men and leading a troop of 150 decrepit soldiers to their deaths. Yet he’s also taken, at his own admiring estimate, as a great booster-jab of infectious liveliness: “I am not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.” He has a spectacular obesity problem and he’s referred to – with epic freedom from euphemism – as “that swoll’n parcel of dropsies”, “that stuff’d cloak-bag of guts”, “this bed-presser, this horse-back-breaker, this hill of flesh” – a man who secretes sweat in such quantities that he “lards the lean earth as he walks along”. Yet his most prominent characteristic, according to many commentators, is his “jubilant brain”. Meet, if you will, Sir John Falstaff.”

O, the humanity!

The above quote from this web page.

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