Power of the PenHamlet warns Polonious to treat the Players well:  "After your death,” he cautions, “you were better have a bad / epitaph than their ill report while you live” ...

Power of the Pen

Hamlet warns Polonious to treat the Players well:  "After your death,” he cautions, “you were better have a bad / epitaph than their ill report while you live”  (2.2.551-52).

Do you know of any personal grudges Shakespeare may have been alluding to?  Who has "lived in infamy" whose deeds might have otherwise been forgotten, were it not for writers and actors? 

2 Answers | Add Yours

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Oh, gee, where to begin listing the names to answer your second question? How about Caligula, Nero, Cesare Borgia, and on and on?

As for personal grudges, maybe Shakespeare is commenting on one of his critics, perhaps Robert Greene. I found this on pbs.org:

One such critic is Robert Greene, who is already dying when he launches a thinly veiled attack on Shakespeare. The attack is contained in a pamphlet put out after Greene's death by his publisher Henry Chettle. Greene's attack is so embittered and vitriolic that, in an example of how Shakespeare's support and profile was increasing, Chettle is forced into printing a groveling retraction

 

http://www.pbs.org/shakespeare/events/event111.html

  I love the Greene comment! I know there was some rivalry betwen Johnson and Marlowe, but with all political/social flashpoints, we tend not to "get" the point of the barb.  I was reading something earlier today about how audiences at the Globe would have howled with laughter at the line about Atlas as they would be envisioning lifting the packed-to-capacity theatre above his head.  So many texts like this:  I have had trouble w/ teaching "Gulliver" for this very problem....so much relevant then that escapes the modern reader. 

Anyway, this is what I was hoping for in this post, lots of folks to contribute one or two items that would build a nice body of references for future scholars.  Thanks, Linda! 

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Oh, gee, where to begin listing the names to answer your second question? How about Caligula, Nero, Cesare Borgia, and on and on?

As for personal grudges, maybe Shakespeare is commenting on one of his critics, perhaps Robert Greene. I found this on pbs.org:

One such critic is Robert Greene, who is already dying when he launches a thinly veiled attack on Shakespeare. The attack is contained in a pamphlet put out after Greene's death by his publisher Henry Chettle. Greene's attack is so embittered and vitriolic that, in an example of how Shakespeare's support and profile was increasing, Chettle is forced into printing a groveling retraction

 

http://www.pbs.org/shakespeare/events/event111.html

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