Please interpret the following quote: “My relationship, then, to the language of Shakespeare revealed itself as nothing less than my relationship to myself and my past" from “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare" by James Baldwin.

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Baldwin's essay tells the story of his complex relationship to Shakespeare. The quote comes toward the end of the essay, as a kind of conclusion. Baldwin describes his relationship to Shakespeare as one of envy and frustration: envy at the greatness of his achievement, and frustration at the way his...

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Baldwin's essay tells the story of his complex relationship to Shakespeare. The quote comes toward the end of the essay, as a kind of conclusion. Baldwin describes his relationship to Shakespeare as one of envy and frustration: envy at the greatness of his achievement, and frustration at the way his language had been deployed against him. As a black man, "standard" (i.e., white) English language was something Baldwin had to struggle against, something that inhibited his ability to express his experience, rather than enabling it.

Several things contributed to Baldwin's reappraisal of Shakespeare. One was his realization that experience "shapes" a language, and language controls experience, which came to him as a result of living in France, where he spoke and thought in French. This experience with a foreign language gave him a renewed appreciation for the different "languages" that black people had invented within English. These languages (like the black English Baldwin spoke at home, or the blues or jazz) organically developed from the black experience. Another was his discovery that Shakespeare's English was not a colonizing force but the result of a similar confrontation with experience. Shakespeare, like any poet, "found his poetry where poetry is found: in the lives of the people." Baldwin came to understand Shakespeare not as a kind of oppressive institution, but as a kindred spirit.

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