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Author Topic: Can geniuses be made?? and is meditation very important to our aptitude?  (Read 7263 times)

Offline db9kit

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Hi, I'm a new member of this forum from Thailand. I have been for a long time suspicious of our level of intelligence.
It's true that we have different level of it, but there's a kind of people whose level of intelligence is too much higher than ours–say, geniuses. I very wonder if they are born, or made. Is there any way or scientific method for a person to build his/her genius talent. I've heard that meditation is one of the best ways to increase aptitude. I may assume that the saying is true as meditation does enhance our attention span and thus leads to satisfactory outcomes. The question is…to what extent is meditation influential to our aptitude?  Does it help our brain a little bit? Or, does it change the way our brain works dramatically, in this case from an ordinary person to be a genius?
I'm so vastly interested in differences in intelligence level of individuals and highly ambitious to boost my brain. Anyone having some good tricks can share your ideas here. :)


 

Offline David Cooper

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I am not happy about the idea that some people are more intelligent than others. Well, clearly they can be in some cases, but the wide spread of intelligence as measured by IQ tests is highly artificial - it is usually a measure of thinking speed against the clock rather than of fundamental ability, or else it is a measure of how many learned methods of solving problems an individual has learned how to apply.

Far more significant is effective intelligence, and that concerns how well or badly people apply their actual intelligence. Many people are unable to apply their intelligence correctly because they are emotionally attached to incorrect beliefs which get in the way of their thinking. In other cases they aren't so emotionally attached to incorrect beliefs, but simply never take the trouble to check to see if there are errors there at deeper levels in their model of reality, so they can spend their entire lives building all manner of intelligent ideas upon a faulty foundation that leads to all their brilliant work being wrong.

I don't think meditation makes any difference to intelligence, but I'm sure it has health benefits, particularly for highly stressed people. If your aim is to try to make geniuses, or just to improve someone's intelligence, it probably helps if you can set them off in the right direction from an early age by making sure that they question everything they're told rather than just accepting what they're told without thinking it through for themselves. Education can be very dangerous unless children are warned not to trust it - it can lock them into fixed, incorrect ways of thinking.
 

Offline CliffordK

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There are many different skill sets that a person may have.  Those that are the best in their field may not always be the best in everything. 

A mechanic may be truly a genius when working on cars, but may not be a mathematician, or a world class author.  Likewise, some scientists may be utterly incompetent when working outside of their field. 

People may have different basic skills, however, it usually takes a lot of hard work and dedication to climb to the top.  One may marvel at someone who has mastered a half a dozen languages.  However, once one learns the skill set for a second language, many of the same ideas are shared in a 3rd or 4th language, assuming one doesn't get them all confused.

Meditation may be a cultural phenomenon, but probably not required to be a "genius".  However, there may be a certain amount of discipline required to gain skills at a certain task.  Meditation may also require an amount of self-discipline, so the two may cross over. 

I have always thought that I have been good at general "problem solving" which is useful for many different tasks.  I'm not sure if it is something that can be fully trained.  It stems in part from a general curiosity about how things work, and never being afraid of trying something new.  My belief is that if I break it, then I can fix it (which can be problematic with broken chunks of plastic, but if it was broken before I started, then I probably didn't make it any worse).  There are many people who believe they can't do simple auto maintenance, but clearly have never tried to do even simple tasks like changing their own oil.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Having thought about this a bit more, while differences in speed of thinking are not directly going to limit intelligence (in that you can still get to all the same places by travelling more slowly, provided that you live long enough), there is also speed of learning to take into account, and that is probably a much greater barrier because it may prevent people from acquiring many thinking skills altogether simply by making it more trouble than it's worth. Not only may they have trouble learning these skills, but they may also have much more difficulty applying them correctly, getting lost along the way and making mistakes. It must be depressing to get stuck repeatedly in this way on things that other people find easy. Keeping rules in memory may be a large part of the problem, because if things just don't stick there no matter how many times the person tries to store them, they aren't going to be able to get on top of the algorithm for applying a method.

There's still the issue of whether a person is motivated to apply their thinking skills correctly, of course, because it's all too easy for people to direct their thinking in such a way as to back up what they want to believe or what they already believe instead of to try to work out how things really are. We are trained in childhood to believe in all kinds of nonsense, such as the idea that some people are royal, and the weight of existing belief in society is taken as overwhelming evidence that the idea must be correct.

The same applies to the idea that Shakespeare is the greatest writer in English, and yet his plays are dismal things filled with characters so ghastly that in most cases it's impossible to care what happens to any of them, but you must not say what you really think about them because you will come across as uneducated, and you certainly must not speak your mind in exams. No doubt he did push things forwards more than other writers of his time, but it's really like worshiping someone who broke the world record for running a mile by several seconds at a time when no one had ever done it in under five minutes. His ability to coin new words by turning nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns, etc., is admired by stupid people who don't understand that this kind of thing can only be done on such a large scale at a time before it's been done, just as early explorers found it easy to go to places where no one had ever been before, but so hard to do today that it's almost impossible for anyone to become an explorer at all. The true measure of Shakespeare's worth is how hard it is to find any of his work on TV, and that's because no one sane wants to waste their time watching it. People certainly do reuse many of his story ideas, but they only do so because they see so many opportunities to improve on them.

A similar case from more recent times is the film ET which was a terrible wasted opportunity, and yet it got in first with an attractive idea. You could easily make a film today that's ten times better, but people would just say that it's a rip off of ET on the basis that the main plot (alien visits Earth and makes friends with child) is the same and that it's therefore nowhere near as good. People do not measure quality correctly. Simple plot ideas are thought up early because they're easy to think up, but they are usually used very badly at first with later writers improving on them in leaps and bounds, though without them getting the credit for their greater innovations on the basis that the main plot (the part that can be stated in a few words) is the same.

This kind of stupidity is not about raw thinking ability at all, but about mental barriers to the application of intelligence. "I don't care how much faster you can run a mile than I can, because I ran a mile before you and that makes my achievement better than yours." Everyone can see that that's stupid when it's applied to athletics, but few do so when it's applied to literature or art.
 

Offline CliffordK

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As far as "speed of thinking", certain standardized tests such as the SAT are weighted towards fast thinking.  However, that isn't necessarily vital in all cases.  Many IQ tests are not timed.

Personally, I am a relatively slow reader.  In college, I never highlighted anything in a book because I felt that if I read it once, that was more than plenty.  And, for the most part, my reading comprehension was just as good, if not better than those people that could read the same material twice in the same amount of time that I read it once.

I always hated being under a time crunch for tech support as I always believed that it was better to slowly get the right answer than quickly get the wrong answer. 

As far as Fiction, many newer works of fiction are built on older stories.  Shakespeare certainly wasn't the first person to write a love story.  Yet the story of love between rival families, perhaps across enemy lines, or across a racial or social divide has been told over and over again. 

Much of good fiction may borrow one scene from a previous work, then work it into an entirely different work.  So, aliens and children have encountered periodically in film.  And...  ET giving the child the finger has often been compared to Michelangelo's "God" image in the Sistine Chapel.

Likewise, most scientific discoveries don't occur in a vacuum, but rather building on the previous work of many other scientists.
 

Offline alancalverd

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The hallmark of genius in science is usually the ability to make connections that others haven't observed. There's a similarity in music, in making sequences that both appeal (very much a matter of fashion and culture) and intrigue (thinking just outside the currently fashionable box).

So was Shakespeare a genius? Certainly well educated, or at least a diligent researcher, in history. And obviously an astute observer of the current fashion and public desire for something a bit "edgy" - he frequently escaped official censure because of his mass appeal. The interpolation of comic relief, in the form of clowns or grumbling soldiers, into histories and tragedies, was more subtle than his long-forgotten predecessors, and possibly introduced notions of beats and pacing that inform the best screenwriting of today. And there's no doubt that his phrasing is as succinct and timeless as the King James Bible. If we add the breadth of scope, from knockabout to King Lear and from history to utter fantasy, and consider the sheer volume of his handwritten output, all done whilst acting, directing, producing, and commuting between London and Stratford, it adds up to an extraordinary display of focussed energy which hasn't been matched in any language since. There's some excellent craftsmanship in modern television, but very few solo performances in the Shakespeare league.

Everything is obvious in retrospect: pythagoras, pennicillin, quantum theory, the jet engine, the D minor fugue (maybe not so obvious - it's still a showstopper!), communism... but the test of genius is "would you have thought of it?" and clearly, millions of people just as intelligent as us, didn't.

So back to the question: can meditation make a genius? AFAIK neither Pythagoras, Fleming, Planck, Whittle, Bach, Marx, etc., spent any time meditating. And I haven't come across many great insights or inventions from those that do. However as a cautious experimental scientist I must point out that the probability of finding the same needle in two haystacks is very small, but not necessarily zero.     
 

Offline CliffordK

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There may, of course, be cultural bias, so many of the great inventors that we can think of are from western society where there is little meditation.

Nonetheless, eastern society brought many great inventions including gunpowder, and perhaps herbal medicine.  The great electronics and manufacturing boom, and growing rich and poor divide in Asia undoubtedly has local influences too.

And, don't forget the pure genius in Bollywood.
 

Offline David Cooper

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There's some excellent craftsmanship in modern television, but very few solo performances in the Shakespeare league.

There are hundreds of writers producing work which is not boring. I've looked really hard at Shakespeare's work and can barely find a thing in it that isn't just deeply dull. In Macbeth it actually starts well for a couple of lines, but then it declines sharply, picks up again for a moment at one point with "Hear it not Duncan, for it is a knell that summons thee to heaven, or to hell", and then it goes back to being dull. A few good lines here and there, but they are very few and very far between. The rest of it is startlingly uninspiring. I'm currently half way through reading King Lear to see if I can find anything worthwhile in it, but no luck yet. I can only think that people must have had really dull lives if they found his plays entertaining, but then the same must apply to EastEnders which appears to excite ten million people despite being every bit as dismal as Shakespeare.

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Everything is obvious in retrospect: pythagoras, pennicillin, quantum theory, the jet engine, the D minor fugue (maybe not so obvious - it's still a showstopper!), communism... but the test of genius is "would you have thought of it?" and clearly, millions of people just as intelligent as us, didn't.

Most great innovations and inventions would have been made by someone else soon after. Others would not have, but were found by people who were exploring in areas where they were on their own - that is more down to luck than anything else. In music there are people who create works that are extraordinarily appealing and which appear to have no relation to intelligence, and ordinary people cannot hope to match them, so there is good reason to regard the most outstanding ones as geniuses, although because so much comes down to personal tastes, one person's idea of which composer is a genius can be very different from another's. There is no scientific test that can be applied to settle any such arguments. With literature it's a different situation, because intelligence does have a role, either through speed of thinking or the way you explore many possible route in the course of trying to think ahead. If the opening of a story leads to you working out where the rest of the story is going to go, the rest will be nothing but a long drag while all the expected events grind through, unless there is something else on offer along the way, but the comedy in Shakespeare doesn't work for me at all, and I can't find anything else rewarding in it either.

What's really needed is a scientific experiment of some kind to test Shakespeare's real worth, because I think most of the appreciation people have of his work results from them being programmed to "know" it's good rather than them coming to that conclusion for themselves. A class of children would be introduced to one real Shakespeare play and one fake one. They would then be told that one of them is fake, but they'd be told that the real one is the fake. By doing this, you could then examine how children develop their opinion of what is great writing based on what they are taught to believe. I think the beliefs they form at that stage, based primarily on what they're told to think, simply stay with them for the rest of their lives.
« Last Edit: 08/05/2014 20:20:04 by David Cooper »
 

Offline David Cooper

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Here's a bit of research on the matter: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2630446/Does-meditation-make-SMART-Letting-mind-wander-lets-brains-process-MORE-thoughts-concentrating.html - perhaps it was this that led to the question at the top.

It looks as if you can get more of your brain to be active by letting it wander without trying to control where it goes. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will do anything useful, but there's no harm in giving it a go. It may well be an aid to artistic creativity. If you've got the time, it's probably worth giving it a go.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Back to Shakespeare for a moment. The reason you don't see much of his work on TV is because it was written for live, open air theatre. No location shots, no closeups, no special effects, no lighting, no editing, no retakes, no backprojection, pretty small pit band (when they were sober) and an audience at least as pissed as the musicians to shout over (microphones? you jest, sirrah!). and remarkably, he played to packed houses and still does.

The problem is that an awful lot of Shakespeare is enacted by crap amateurs (especially schoolkids) who don't understand the words or the context in which they were intended to be uttered. A night at the Globe Theatre or even the more conventional Stratford Swan is unforgettable in comparison with almost anything on TV (especially if it rains), but I'll agree that the average school or village hall production of Macbeth is of interest only to the actors.     

The "real versus fake" test can be done more simply. Just sit through the White Devil or Tamburlaine the Great and see whether Shakespeare is head and shoulders above his contemporaries.  If it hadn't been for a full frontal Helen Mirren I probably would have slept through the whole of Dr Faustus, despite the rest of the cast giving it full welly from page one, but the same RSC crew performing Henry VIII was electrifying, and I remember it 45 years on!

But I digress.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I will read Henry VIII next then. I assume the great quality is there in the text somewhere and isn't merely added to it by brilliant actors.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Having thought about this a bit more, while differences in speed of thinking are not directly going to limit intelligence (in that you can still get to all the same places by travelling more slowly, provided that you live long enough),

When I teach anatomy at the small community college here, I have a wide range of students, some with university experience, and some with one year of high school science, possibly ten or fifteen years ago. One of the biggest obstacles for students is language. I don't mean simply science or medical vocabulary, but the type of language used in textbooks but not quite as common in every day speech - words like diminish, compensate, establish, contribute, conserve, modify, component, suppress, periphery, distribute, reciprocal,inhibitory, subsequent, etc. My students could probably define all the above words accurately individually, but string lots of them together in sentence after sentence, and comprehension nose dives.

One can dismiss it as just poorer reading skills among certain students, but it still intrigues me - once you learn the meaning of a word, why isn't it as processed as effortlessly and as quickly as "cat"? Is it the number of times you are exposed to a word, or perhaps the age you first learned it? But regardless, once you know it, once it's in long term memory, why should the number exposures matter?

(My students' problems with textbooky language reminds me of my own struggles with math - the experience of knowing what each symbol means but somehow having the meaning as a whole not be instantly recognizable, or slip through my fingers.)

My point is, I wonder if intelligence isn't related to how well some people transfer information or skills to a kind of faster, automated process that takes much less arduous, conscious deliberation.

I agree with Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule - that a lot of practice and hardwork goes into becoming very accomplished at something, but perhaps in some individuals, there is also some neurological difference that accelerates the effects of practice or exposure.



« Last Edit: 18/05/2014 08:28:24 by cheryl j »
 

Offline cheryl j

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I am not happy about the idea that some people are more intelligent than others. Well, clearly they can be in some cases, but the wide spread of intelligence as measured by IQ tests is highly artificial - it is usually a measure of thinking speed against the clock rather than of fundamental ability, or else it is a measure of how many learned methods of solving problems an individual has learned how to apply.

Far more significant is effective intelligence, and that concerns how well or badly people apply their actual intelligence. Many people are unable to apply their intelligence correctly because they are emotionally attached to incorrect beliefs which get in the way of their thinking. In other cases they aren't so emotionally attached to incorrect beliefs, but simply never take the trouble to check to see if there are errors there at deeper levels in their model of reality, so they can spend their entire lives building all manner of intelligent ideas upon a faulty foundation that leads to all their brilliant work being wrong.



I thought this article was kind of interesting, even though there are lots of valid criticisms of both IQ tests and personality tests. Never the less, I was surprised at some of the things that did and didn't correlate with IQ, or even negatively correlated. Primarily, various aspects of "openess of experience" were the most significant correlates, which I think is compatible with what you say above.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2014/04/21/how-does-iq-relate-to-personality/

 

Offline alancalverd

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I will read Henry VIII next then. I assume the great quality is there in the text somewhere and isn't merely added to it by brilliant actors.

It wasn't written to be read! It was written for professional actors on an open stage. You might as well read the Beatles' sheet music and conclude that it's just a lot of dots on paper, or stare at the plans for a racing car or the choreography of a boxing match. Some things need to be done by professionals, in context, if they are to be entertaining.
« Last Edit: 18/05/2014 11:09:51 by alancalverd »
 

Offline David Cooper

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I thought this article was kind of interesting, even though there are lots of valid criticisms of both IQ tests and personality tests. Never the less, I was surprised at some of the things that did and didn't correlate with IQ, or even negatively correlated. Primarily, various aspects of "openess of experience" were the most significant correlates, which I think is compatible with what you say above.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2014/04/21/how-does-iq-relate-to-personality/

It gives a few pointers to how you'd need to change intelligence tests to make them fit the facts better. It's particularly interesting to see that they found a lack of correlation between IQ and rationality, and that says a lot about what's wrong with IQ tests.
 

Offline David Cooper

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I will read Henry VIII next then. I assume the great quality is there in the text somewhere and isn't merely added to it by brilliant actors.

It wasn't written to be read! It was written for professional actors on an open stage. You might as well read the Beatles' sheet music and conclude that it's just a lot of dots on paper, or stare at the plans for a racing car or the choreography of a boxing match. Some things need to be done by professionals, in context, if they are to be entertaining.

So I'm right then - it isn't in the text, but in the performance, and the performance is coloured by the beliefs of the performers and determines their level of enthusiasm, and their enthusiasm is then picked up by the audience who are also in the mood to be inspired because of the name of the writer of the play. It's one great circle of infectious, self-reinforced greatness - give it a little kick to get it started and it will carry on forever on the basis that it must be great. It's like people getting excited about meeting the Queen but having utter disdain for a bag lady in the street, even though the latter may have an extraordinary story to her life and may have done many great things.

This Shakespeare effect is something that needs to be studied through proper scientific experiments instead of leaving it all to biassed and programmed experts in literature. I see it in so many other fields where a "great" person becomes practically an object of worship (e.g. Chomsky - good on politics, as it happens, but woeful on linguistics) and hordes of followers then ensure that the work of that deity dominates the field regardless of whether it's right or wrong.

I look at writers' work and judge it on its own merits. I can see the quality in Chaucer and Dickens, but Shakespeare always leaves me cold, even though I quite genuinely want to like it. I simply don't believe that it is of the quality that people claim it to be, and I've watched people being trained to admire it without being allowed to think for themselves. So, the thing to do now is try to devise an experiment (or set of experiments) to put this to the test. I will work on this when I have more time, but it should be fascinating to see what the results say. What I have in mind is to write a new play with the same name as one of Shakespeare's (though with a very different plot) and then create a second version of the fake play modified until it's as dull and plodding as the real thing. The three versions will then be used in the experiments.
 

Offline Caleb

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I hate to interpose myself here, but it is difficult to conceive of a more moving, thoughtful play than Hamlet. And also great are Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Merchant of Venice, the Tempest, etc., etc.

And I sure agree (and have thought for decades) that while Marlowe is really not too bad, he could not hold a candle to Shakespeare, and he was by far the the best of the alternatives. Also the sonnets are wonderful.

In terms of making geniuses, I do not know. Elon Musk is apparently such an individual, the founder of Space-x, Pay Pal, etc.

I've been interested in decades in the general possibility extending the notion of neoteny to increasing brain size in infants and I am sure that people are working on this but know nothing about the current research in this matter. Neoteny means "holding on to youth," and humans when they are born, are still very, very immature for a long time after birth, in large part because their skulls must fit through the pelvic space of their mothers. And so not until about a year after birth, when the infant's skulls knit reasonably well (but still the mylenation continues), did Ashley Montague say that babies were actually born. (Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoteny for more on neoteny.)

But clearly genius is more than brain size...

Yours,

Caleb
 

Offline alancalverd

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So I'm right then - it isn't in the text, but in the performance, and the performance is coloured by the beliefs of the performers and determines their level of enthusiasm, and their enthusiasm is then picked up by the audience who are also in the mood to be inspired because of the name of the writer of the play.

No, you are wrong. Shakespeare's plays were written for an audience who had never heard of him, and mostly went to the theatre to get drunk and pick up prostitutes. Seen in that context, they are remarkable for the depth and breadth of character, their initial popularity, and their pungent use of language in coining phrases that remain in everyday use.

The performance, however good, is nothing without the writing: a dozen professional musicians won't produce the Royal Fireworks unless they have the score in front of them, and very few non-musicians can "get" the music just by looking at the score. By your measure, Handel was just a bloke who put dots on paper, but I think you'll agree that it's a damn good piece of music and very few composers have done any better. That said, a crap performance of the Royal Fireworks, or an inappropriate one (say in a lift) won't make many people recognise the genius behind it - it's just noise.   
 

Offline cheryl j

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So, the thing to do now is try to devise an experiment (or set of experiments) to put this to the test. I will work on this when I have more time, but it should be fascinating to see what the results say. What I have in mind is to write a new play with the same name as one of Shakespeare's (though with a very different plot) and then create a second version of the fake play modified until it's as dull and plodding as the real thing. The three versions will then be used in the experiments.

Things like that do happen in real life. I saw a documentary called "Who the F*uck? is Jackson Pollock?" about a woman who bought a painting in a yard sale. She was a trucker with an 8th grade education. Someone suggested it looked like a Jackson Pollock. She took it to art museums - they basically laughed at her - what are the odds of actually finding a Pollock at a yard sale - and said that it was obviously an inferior imitation of his style. But one forensic art specialist matched the paint to paint in his studio, and a finger print on her painting to prints on two authenticated paintings. The art dealers refused to go back on their opinions, but someone in another country offered 9 million.

I'm sure as well many bad novels get published by well known writers just because of their past successes, and good novels, like Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, get repeatedly rejected before going on to win some major prize (after the author committed suicide) or are never published at all.

Quality is subjective. I can't think of any quantitative way to measure it, and I'm not sure even subjecting it to democratic scrutiny is the answer either. After all, that is what test marketing does, sometimes improving a movie or making it more coherent, but sometimes tacking corny feel good endings on them at the last minute.
 

Offline David Cooper

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So I'm right then - it isn't in the text, but in the performance, and the performance is coloured by the beliefs of the performers and determines their level of enthusiasm, and their enthusiasm is then picked up by the audience who are also in the mood to be inspired because of the name of the writer of the play.

No, you are wrong. Shakespeare's plays were written for an audience who had never heard of him, and mostly went to the theatre to get drunk and pick up prostitutes. Seen in that context, they are remarkable for the depth and breadth of character, their initial popularity, and their pungent use of language in coining phrases that remain in everyday use.

If there was nothing better on the go at the time, it is unsurprising that they were more successful than the works of other playwrights. That is not a measure of how good they actually are because they're being compared with dross. The phrases and words that Shakespeare coined were primarily the result of the need to pack things into an iambic pentameter structure, but he was doing this at a time when there was plenty of room to innovate and the easy stuff had not been done.

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The performance, however good, is nothing without the writing: a dozen professional musicians won't produce the Royal Fireworks unless they have the score in front of them, and very few non-musicians can "get" the music just by looking at the score. By your measure, Handel was just a bloke who put dots on paper, but I think you'll agree that it's a damn good piece of music and very few composers have done any better. That said, a crap performance of the Royal Fireworks, or an inappropriate one (say in a lift) won't make many people recognise the genius behind it - it's just noise.

Shakespeare's texts are much easier to transform in your head into an imagined performance than dots on paper into actual music. I heard three of Shakespeare's plays being droned through at school, starting with Julius Caesar, then Macbeth and finally Hamlet. All of them disappointed, but then the first one was talked up in advance by an English teacher and was then unable to live up to expectations. The other two weren't, but the English teacher created such a bad atmosphere that she killed everything she touched. I decided not to hold that against Shakespeare, but to give his plays a proper go in the theatre with professional actors. Again they failed to do anything for me - they were little better than a school class droning through them. That includes a performance of Richard the somethingth-or-other which I saw on TV (BBC4) from the Globe which was absolute tedium from start to finish. A woman talked it up during the interval and went on about the wonderful part that was about to come, but when it came it was as empty as the rest.

My problem with his plays is simply that I find them unbelievably dull, and that is incompatible with him being the greatest writer in English. We have an education system which is designed to select people who toe the official line so that they can be put in positions of power to pass on this indoctrination to the next generation, so the "wisdom" they force on everyone can never be challenged from within. But of course opinion as to what is interesting or dull is subjective, so what is really needed is a proper weighing up of how many people actually find his work interesting or dull, but that requires an experiment to be devised to measure that without allowing any bias to leak into it based on what people have been taught to believe. Many people will say something is great not because they have come to that conclusion for themselves, but because they don't want to look ignorant by going against what society expects them to say. It's much easier to conform than to speak your mind, so that's what they do. The experiment must test them in such a way that the link between the brand name and the product has been broken and they have to judge the product purely on its own merits. If a way can be found to do that with Shakespeare, I don't think he stands a chance.

[Edit to change playrite into playwright - the google search box sent me in the wrong direction when I couldn't think how the word was spelt.]
« Last Edit: 21/05/2014 19:33:40 by David Cooper »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Lots of contentious stuff there!

Very few people find Einstein's work "interesting", and I certainly found it very dull to read, but few would dispute his genius. And whilst I admire Shakespeare for his genius, I wouldn't put him above Steinbeck as "the greatest writer in English": prose, journalism, and even screenplays, are very different from theatre. Steinbeck's environment, audience and motivation were quite different, and I find his writing much more compelling. But I draw a distinction between his supreme craftsmanship in well-tilled fields, and Shakespeare's taming of the theatrical jungle.   

Interesting that you mention the iambic pentameter: a slick trick to grab an audience and make lines easy to learn. By no means original, but used to better effect by Shakespeare than most of his contemporaries.
 

Offline cheryl j

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My daughter's highschool class is going to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford this week. They are particularly excited because the actor playing King Lear was also in Spiderman II.
 

Offline David Cooper

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Have you ever noticed how much easier it is for a great actor to win a big award if they're in a film covering a big issue or involving something of high status like royalty? There's a psychological effect that kicks in and makes people imagine a superior performance based on things that are nothing to do with the actor's acting. It occurs to me that because a lot of Shakespeare's work involves kings, his own status is boosted by the status of his subject matter and it may be warping people's opinion of his work.

It's also possible of course that he has written something fantastic that I happen not to have found yet. Many pop stars sing the most awful rubbish for the most part and it's hard to understand why people buy their music, until you find the song that they made it big with, at which point you start to appreciate their worth and forgive them for the inferiority of all their other work. The same thing happens with comedy: you may find a comedian or a sitcom utterly unfunny, but then he/they does/do something extremely funny, and that's all it takes to change your attitude towards them, because you now like them enough to feel able to laugh at them even when they aren't so funny.
 

Offline alancalverd

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They are particularly excited because the actor playing King Lear was also in Spiderman II.

Jim Lovell was recently honoured by the Guild of Air Pilots http://www.airpilots.org/file/1222/citations.pdf. A journalist member of the Guild tried to interest an editor to cover the story. "Never heard of Lovell...." "Astronaut. Captain of Apollo 13. Tom Hanks played him in the film." "Ah, now if you can get an interview with Tom Hanks...."

How sad.   

It occurs to me that because a lot of Shakespeare's work involves kings, his own status is boosted by the status of his subject matter and it may be warping people's opinion of his work.

An interesting observation. Not entirely true, though. Surely his best-loved and most-copied work is Romeo and Juliet (often criticised as being "just a load of quotations"!) with no kings, and it's pretty hard to write a historical play without mentioning a king or emperor because they were by definition the military leaders and political achievers of history - non-executive royalty was invented after Shakespeare's death. But there's another interesting aspect: modern British films and TV plays are about misery and failure (East Enders, Coronation Street...) whilst Hollywood (Dynasty, The A team..) is all about success, happiness and redemption. So you may be viewing Shakespeare through fashionable low-budget-tinted glasses! 
« Last Edit: 22/05/2014 00:50:09 by alancalverd »
 

Offline cheryl j

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They are particularly excited because the actor playing King Lear was also in Spiderman II.

Jim Lovell was recently honoured by the Guild of Air Pilots http://www.airpilots.org/file/1222/citations.pdf. A journalist member of the Guild tried to interest an editor to cover the story. "Never heard of Lovell...." "Astronaut. Captain of Apollo 13. Tom Hanks played him in the film." "Ah, now if you can get an interview with Tom Hanks...."

How sad.   

It occurs to me that because a lot of Shakespeare's work involves kings, his own status is boosted by the status of his subject matter and it may be warping people's opinion of his work.

An interesting observation. Not entirely true, though. Surely his best-loved and most-copied work is Romeo and Juliet (often criticised as being "just a load of quotations"!) with no kings, and it's pretty hard to write a historical play without mentioning a king or emperor because they were by definition the military leaders and political achievers of history - non-executive royalty was invented after Shakespeare's death. But there's another interesting aspect: modern British films and TV plays are about misery and failure (East Enders, Coronation Street...) whilst Hollywood (Dynasty, The A team..) is all about success, happiness and redemption. So you may be viewing Shakespeare through fashionable low-budget-tinted glasses! 

Well, the assumption is that Kings have more interesting lives - for the same reasons that people today read tabloids or watch reality tv about celebrities.   Not that there can't be meaning and drama in being poor (Grapes of Wrath) but admittedly, life as an medieval peasant, or a farmer's wife on the prairies in the 1800s, probably didn't lend itself to theatrical entertainment. ("Worked all day. Ate a turnip and some bread. It rained.")

When I did student teaching in an inner city school, I taught English lit, and the kids really liked Romeo and Juliet. They got the gang thing, much better than my class mates did in the suburbs.
« Last Edit: 22/05/2014 04:20:48 by cheryl j »
 

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