Jeanette Winterson on Shakespeare

Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time is the first book in the Hogarth Shakespeare project, in which today's best-loved novelists create their own take on the plays of Shakespeare. 


It’s very odd. I mean you don’t go to Shakespeare to find out about life in Elizabethan England. You go to Shakespeare to find out about yourself, now. He has something to say for all emotional conditions, situations, circumstances, the changing fortunes of men and women, the interior world that we try and inhabit. The clash between the public and the private, between ambition and contemplation, between your own moral values and received authority.

So when people now say Shakespeare’s difficult, we shouldn’t read Shakespeare, it’s crazy, because all you need to do is immerse yourself in those plays and a whole new world begins to open up for you. It’s never a waste of time. But I think the best way to deal with Shakespeare, especially if you are young and growing up, is to go and see the stuff, because then you get a sense for the language, the action, the drama. It’s a bit like opera really, there are some things you ought to see happening before you read the text, but if you can’t do that then it’s worth risking it with the text even if the language seems difficult at some stages. We have to get over that and allow ourselves to connect, allowing it to happen in us.

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