Professor Harold Bloom will not rank among the great epigrammatists of history. His new book on Shakespeare book is prolix, untidy, repetitive, and bloated by self-indulgence.[1] Yet its central proposition is stated (admittedly, not until page 493) with beautiful simplicity: Shakespeare “is what we know because we are what he knew.” Only Chaucer, Bloom maintains, preceded Shakespeare in the creation of a convincing inner self for his characters and Shakespeare surpassed Chaucer. In giving us Iago, Hamlet, Shylock, and a host of others, Shakespeare made us aware of human possibilities to such an extent that our conception of human nature was thereby enlarged. We cannot conceive our world without his terms of reference.

So stated, the argument has a certain plausibility. Shakespeare is undoubtedly able to create as if from within, to interiorize with utter authenticity, more varieties of...


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