On Sunday morning, after its political show (The Andrew Marr Show), the BBC 1 television channel broadcasts an oft-pretentious show called The Big Questions. In it, a moderator and some guests tackle issues such as Does God exist?, or Should climate change now be taken seriously?, or Should there be a legal supply of cannabis?, to cite just a few recent topics.
This week’s episode, held as the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death begin, tries to find out if there is more truth in Shakespeare – in his plays and characters – than in the Bible. It’s a rhetorical question, of course, and Team Bible doesn’t end up saying much; about three-fourths of the discussion is about Shakespeare.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting way to think about Shakespeare, and I strongly recommend to those in the UK who are interested in Shakespeare to check it out. Is there more truth in Shakespeare than the Bible? is on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days.
One comment worth noting came from Stanley Wells near the end of the program:
Nobody has a moral duty to like Shakespeare. We shouldn’t be over-emphatic, I think. Shakespeare does have his difficulties and his problems for modern readers and for modern theater-goers, and while we here are all speaking enthusiastically in favor of Shakespeare, nobody should feel inferior because they don’t respond to Shakespeare, just as nobody should feel inferior because they don’t respond to Beethoven or to the Rolling Stones.
When asked what his favorite play is, Stanley Wells cited King Lear, which I also feel to be the greatest Shakespeare play, even more than Hamlet. Just saying…