365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

246. Shakespeare’s understanding of human emotion

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While many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries relied on showy dialogue and exaggerated situations to create drama, it is Shakespeare’s deeply accurate understanding of true human emotion that makes his plays so successful. He was not only able to create compelling plots and subplots, but also able to make them real and comparable to actual human reactions – no mean task when writing in iambic pentameter.

Take what is perhaps his most famous character, Hamlet, for example. Hamlet alone can serve as argument that Shakespeare is one of the greatest emotional playwrights not only of his own time, but of all time. By placing this young student, average in all ways but title of prince, in such extraordinary circumstances designed to test every notion of his heart and mind and soul, Shakespeare creates a character that everyone can identify with in some way or another. Every one of Hamlet’s soliloquies present his emotional state, ranging from tormented to suicidal to vengefully triumphant and back again. It is not so much the situations surrounding Hamlet that make the play interesting – though the political and social aspects of the play are anything but dull – but rather the emotional journey Hamlet takes through each course.

There is another part of Shakespeare’s understanding to be noted: his understanding of women. Though likely a bit lonely in his feminism in his day, Shakespeare was nonetheless able to write deeply emotional female characters that defied many conventions and could more than hold their own against the men in the plays. Beatrice, perhaps his wittiest woman, arguably “wins” every fight against the object of her unknown affections, Benedick. And Viola in “Twelfth Night” delivers an impassioned speech that declares to the doubtful Orsino that women feel just as much love as men do, if not more.

It is when characters deliver speeches about seeing their loves for the last time in “Romeo and Juliet”, or when they first fall in love in “As You Like It”, or when they fly into jealous rages in “Othello” that Shakespeare is at his best, demonstrating his power to create true emotion with a few flicks of a quill pen. He always does so passionately, with poetry so beautiful it can be tempting to take it at face value and just enjoy the words. There are few writers who can write as eloquently as Shakespeare did, and even fewer who can convey the emotional depths he managed to do.


Written by Caroline Mincks

June 4, 2010 at 9:44 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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