IS SHAKESPEARE TOO VIOLENT? Jesse Green had an article in New York magazine (June 16 to 29) which asks a big question. I find part of it thought provoking and disagree with part of it. I will begin with my disagreement. The full headline for the article poses the question and gives Green’s answer: “SHAKESPEARE HAS A BLOODY PROBLEM. All gore, few insights. why the tragedies almost never work anymore.”
Green’s main argument is that Shakespeare’s plays—and especially the big four tragedies, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and MacBeth—are too violent to work for a modern audience. He restates the question:” Are Shakespeare’s big tragedies, however bloodily enacted, now ineffectual onstage?”
I gave an answer to the question six years ago in this post captioned “A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF BLOOD”. The Chicagoe Shakespeare company set the Henry VI plays, dealing with most of the deaths in the War of the Roses, in a Victorian butcher shop. Every time there was a violent death on stage, a butcher took a sword to either a head of cabbage or a slab of meat. The deaths were abstract, but chilling. The plays worked beautifully.