I sat upon the balcony early this Thursday morning. Peering down at the heads of those seated below, I saw in the corner a woman seated erect and confident. Professor Megan Sanborn Jones spoke with power and spoke to her audience. Her lecture was titled “Shakespeare: form Pages to Stages” and within it, she illustrated the transformation of Shakespeare throughout the ages.
Professor Megan Sanborn Jones began her lecture quite unlike most others. Quotes were distributed throughout the audience, and Jones would call on them to heighten the interaction between audience and lecturer. Professor Jones inquired about our views of Shakespeare; what comes to mind when his name is heard. Much of society’s respect for Shakespeare exists simply because it is what we were taught. For those who admire Shakespearean work, are merely echoing the thoughts of the generation before. Is Shakespeare truly the master we know him to be? And what is this universality that demands our upmost respect? As Professor Jones demonstrated, Shakespeare was just another writer scraping to get by; the equivalent to today’s sitcom writer. So what exactly happened to transcend this man above the ranks of mere mortals?
The canonization of Shakespeare was brought about by many events. The gathering of his works, undertaken by Ben Johnson, legitimized Shakespeare’s work. Prior to this, Shakespeare’s plays were written on sides in haste. What we have today is a selection and alteration of lines and may in no way reflect the original contents. Shakespeare was not celebrated until the Germans picked up his writings during the German Romantic period. England, upon seeing the popularity Shakespeare obtained in Germany, ‘reclaimed’ Shakespeare in the mid 19th century. A national movement commenced, and Shakespeare became England’s export. Essentially, because we were taught that Shakespeare was great, we believe it. Though there was much more to Jones lecture, I admired her words and her intelligence. Professor Jones was passionate about communication through performance and allowing the audience to find meaning. Professor Jones practiced what she preached. Her lecture was an incredible performance, encouraging each present to find meaning.