Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for April 15th, 2012

Shakespeare and the grand style

with 4 comments

I confess myself utterly ignorant what the Grand Style is. It comes sometimes, as it were, “promiscuously” in the vulgar sense of that term. It would, for instance, be exceedingly difficult for the most expert, or the most futile, ingenuity of the commentator to assign an exact reason for the occurrence, where it occurs, of what is perhaps the grandest example of the Grand Style in all literature—the words of Prospero to Ferdinand, when the revels are ended. An excuse is wanted to break off the pretty “vanity of his art”; to get rid of the lovers; and to punish, in defeating it, the intentionally murderous but practically idle plot of Caliban and his mates. Anything would do; and the actual pretext is anything or nothing. But Shakespeare chooses to accompany it with a “criticism of life”—and of more than life—so all-embracing, couched in expression of such magnificence, that one knows not where to look for its like as form and matter combined. An ordinary man, if, per impossible, he could have written it, would have put it at the end; an extraordinary one might have substituted it for, or added it to, the more definite announcement of abdication and change which now comes later with “Ye elves,” etc. Shakespeare puts it here.

George Saintsbury, Collected Essays

Written by nevalalee

April 15, 2012 at 9:50 am

%d bloggers like this: