Robert Nye

We Could Do With A Few More, Monsieur

After Shakespeare: An Anthology


Oxford University Press 356pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

‘Fantastic!’ the movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn is said to have exclaimed, on first looking into the collected works of Shakespeare. ‘And it was all written with a feather!’

Greater minds have given birth to more subtle thoughts on the subject, though not all of them as memorable. Wittgenstein, that unacknowledged humorist, worried away at the question of whether people are really killed in tragedies or not, but then Wittgenstein did not really like Shakespeare anyway. Neither did Voltaire, who called Hamlet ‘a product of the imagination of a drunken savage’ (we could do with a few more, monsieur). D H Lawrence was less contemptuous, but wrote a poem called ‘When I Read Shakespeare’ in which he called the character Hamlet ‘boring … / so mean and self-conscious’, and referred to Lear as ‘the old buffer’, going on (not just for the sake of the rhymes), ‘you wonder his daughters / didn’t treat him rougher, / the old chough, the old chuffer!’ That same Lawrence poem neatly encapsulates in its jokey way, how some people still love Shakespeare even while finding his characters sometimes ridiculous:

How boring, how small Shakespeare’s people are!

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'To be clever without wanting to glory in it, put dimmer people down or make an act of covering it up (viz Boris Jo… ,
    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,