Helmholtz calls Shakespeare a “marvelous propaganda technician.” How does he explain Shakespeare’s success?
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
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In Chapter 12 of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Helmholtz Watson, an emotional engineer who writes political and social verses to promote the political philosophy of the New World and pacify people, feels dissatisfied in his writing. So, when John the Savage reads Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a play written in blank verse replete with beautiful metaphors, similes, imagery, and other literary devices, Helmholtz is charmed, especially after listening to the famous balcony scene of Act II. He tells John that the verbal detail is a "superb piece of emotional engineering."
The emotional language of Romeo and Juliet is what Helmholtz finds fascinating. He understands that Shakespeare is such a "marvellous propaganda machine" because he had so many "insane, excruciating things to get excited about." People must be hurt and angered and upset; otherwise, they cannot have such "x-rayish phrases" as those that Shakespeare can employ. The New World does not have these. No one could possibly be that upset about a girl or a boy. Helmholtz wonders what he could use to arouse such emotion,
"I don't know," he said at last, "I don't know."
In chapter 12, Helmholtz was in trouble for sharing a rhyme with his class; the rhyme was challenging the student’s conditioning. He narrated the rhyme to John who thought it better to share his own version through reading Romeo and Juliet for Helmholtz. At first Helmholtz was intrigued by the level of artistry being conveyed but as the poem went on and the issue of mothers, fathers and lovers was introduced, the poem became hilarious. At first he asserted that Shakespeare was very good in his writing and nothing in their time compares. However, when John read the third act, Helmholtz was unable to restrain himself and cut the poem reading short. To him it did not make sense that the parents were choosing a lover for Juliet and Juliet was not at liberty to inform them of her choice. He then goes ahead to explain why Shakespeare is successful, and he stated that it is because the man was exposed to emotions and relationship attachments and that it is these aspects that helped him come up with highly effective phrases.
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