I believe in broken, fractured, complicated narratives, but I believe in narratives as a vehicle for truth, not simply as a form of entertainment, though I love entertainment, but also a way of conveying what needs to be conveyed about the works that I care about.— Stephen Greenblatt
The most uplifting Stephen Greenblatt quotes you will be delighted to read
Now a Protestant confronting a Catholic ghost is exactly Shakespeare's way of grappling with what was not simply a general social problem but one lived out in his own life.
First of all, there was a volcano of words, an eruption of words that Shakespeare had never used before that had never been used in the English language before. It's astonishing. It pours out of him.
It is not that Shakespeare's art is in technicolor and fancy, and that real life is black and white and tedious. The life that Shakespeare was living was the only life he had, and he had to use it to create what he was doing.
One of my favorite writers is Michel de Montaigne.
My wife gave me a beautiful 17th-century edition of Montaigne's essays translated by John Florio. That's probably my most precious possession.
Compared to the unleashed forces of warfare and of faith, Mount Vesuvius was kinder to the legacy of antiquity.
The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion.
No special writing rituals. And my desk is usually cluttered.
I think the writing of literature should give pleasure.
What else should it be about? It is not nuclear physics. It actually has to give pleasure or it is worth nothing.
What I wanted to do was to get that sense of being in touch with this lost world while holding onto what draws readers and audiences there in the first place.
Through reading literature we can make ghosts speak to us, and we can speak back to them.
I believe that it is a whole lifetime of work on Shakespeare's part that enabled him to do what he did. But the question is how you can explain this whole lifetime in such a way to make it accessible and available to us, to me.
A couple of years ago I picked up New Yorker writer Alma Guillermoprieto's "The Heart That Bleeds," which is reportage from Latin America in the 1990s. You can predict that some books will give you a thrill, but you can't predict the books that will hit you hard. It is a little bit like falling in love.
There's a huge amount of work on Adam and Eve, from the ancient world to the present. Saint Augustine was obsessed with them.I don't know if it helps my research, but I get a big kick out of Mark Twain, who wrote "The Diaries of Adam and Eve." He wrote very funny stuff on them. I sometimes read things that are loosely related to what I'm thinking and writing about.
In high school I read [Lev] Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" and loved it.
Then I read [Friedrich] Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals" and that hit me hard. I don't know where I got it. My parents warned me not to mention either of those books when I went for my college interviews so I wouldn't seem like an egghead. They told me to talk about sports.
Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig
The exercise of reason is not available only to specialists; it is accessible to everyone.
When I was quite young I came across a collection of [Franz] Kafka stories and read "The Judgment." I was just floored by that story. I couldn't understand it. I still don't. I'm talking about something I read more than 50 years ago. That story left a little scar on me.
Poems are difficult to silence.
The Shakespeare that Shakespeare became is the name that's attached to these astonishing objects that he left behind.
The first and perhaps the most important requirement for a successful writing performance - and writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig - is to understand the nature of the occasion.
I believe that nothing comes of nothing, even in Shakespeare.
I wanted to know where he got the matter he was working with and what he did with that matter.
A comparably capacious embrace of beauty and pleasure - an embrace that somehow extends to death as well as life, to dissolution as well as creation - characterizes Montaigne's restless reflections on matter in motion, Cervantes's chronicle of his mad knight, Michelangelo's depiction of flayed skin, Leonardo's sketches of whirlpools, Caravaggio's loving attention to the dirty soles of Christ's feet.
First of all, Shakespeare is about pleasure and interest.
He was from the first moment he actually wrote something for the stage, and he remains so.
[People in 1600s] didn't have many books.
They would have been staggered by the personal libraries we have today, because books back then were incredibly expensive.
Literate households in the 17th century would have had the Bible, John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress," and a couple of other books. Shakespeare plays were cheap, so you could buy those, but a folio cost a pound, which was an incredible amount of money then.
I have lots of things that aren't so old that I value, such as a copy of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," which he signed for me.
What we know is that Shakespeare wrote perhaps the most remarkable body of passionate love poetry in the English language to a young man.
Art always penetrates the particular fissures in one's psychic life.
I was in Venice teaching, so I reread Henry James's "The Wings of the Dove." I love James.
But I never listen to music while I'm writing.
In short, it became possible - never easy, but possible - in the poet Auden's phrase to find the mortal world enough.
But if Shakespeare himself is maybe about meaning and truth, I don't know, then he is certainly about pleasure and interest, we start with pleasure and interest, but maybe eventually it gets to meaning and truth.
I'm reading Hans Kummer's "In Quest of the Sacred Baboon.
" It's wonderful. It's a scientist's journal about baboons, but it relates to the search for human origin.