As a little break in my financial reading and in an effort to become a little more cultured, I picked up Nicholas Royle’s How to Read Shakespeare. The idea of this paperback series is to introduce the language and the meaning of a series of great thinkers.
This book has reminded me of how much I hate literary interpretation. The first chapter, which focuses on The Merchant of Venice (my favourite Shakespeare play by some distance), makes some interesting observations. For example, that Shakespeare uses the word ‘corner’ as an metaphor to female genitalia throughout many of his plays, and that it this may have links to the cornu, or ‘horns of cuckoldry’. This is vaguely interesting, although it appears Shakespeare used many words as innuendo for female genitalia (Hamlet: Do you think I talk of country matters?)
What is frustrating about this book is that the scholarly interesting cross-referencing and sensible etymology is followed by examples of such utter tripe that the whole book is spoilt. For example, the author suggests that the Bard invented the word ‘witsnapper’ because it sounds a bit like his name – Wi[lliam] S[hakespe]ar[e]. It doesn’t. The idea is groundless and absurd, and stupidities like this cloud the book. I doubt I’ll bother with Chapter Two.