Comparisons of Shakespeare and Lovecraft

Quentin S. Crisp about Literary Britain:

And as to Shakespeare, I remain unconvinced. He still seems to me like a bloke who could write some good one-liners, but I’ve never found the stories at all engaging. What did he actually convey, apart from the fact that he was the Bard, and therefore pretty damned clever? People (and critics) will sometimes give someone like H.P. Lovecraft as an example of a bad writer, because of certain things that, stylistically, you are apparently not supposed to do, and because he didn’t flatter society with amusing comedies of manners, but at least Lovecraft conveys something in particular, whereas, to me, Shakespeare conveys nothing at all. And Shakespeare is the jewel in the passage to India of English literature, apparently. No wonder all the rest of it is so crap.

Matt Cardin’s Interview with Thomas Ligotti:

MC: For well over a year now you’ve been laboring on your nonfiction philosophical magnum opus, The Conspiracy against the Human Race. I recall that when some of your ideas from that one made their way into the excellent interview that Neddal Ayad conducted with you for Fantastic Metropolis last year, you were criticized by a couple of people at online venues for what they took to be your overinflation of your personal opinions into blanket judgments of value. Specifically, I remember somebody taking you to task for comparing Lovecraft to Shakespeare and evidently judging Lovecraft the greater of the two when you said that “for Lovecraft, unlike Shakespeare, the revelation of life as an idiot’s tale is the alpha and omega of his work. He doesn’t just pay passing lip service to what is the most profound and obvious fact of life—he makes it the core of his work.” You have also told me that at least one acquaintance of yours who read an early draft of The Conspiracy against the Human Race simply couldn’t get a handle on the fact that in its dark and despairing diagnosis of life, you’re talking about the way the world seems, and has to seem, to you as a specific individual, as opposed to advancing its outlook as objective truth. Would you care to say anything about all this, maybe to try and set the record straight?

TL: Well, I never said that Lovecraft was better writer than “honey-tongued Shakespeare,” as one contemporary described him. But Shakespeare was a playwright. Today he would be the kind of novelist whose work I’ve described in response to an earlier question. His characters say things that appeal to me, and they say it well, but that’s not Shakespeare talking. Hamlet’s gloomy ramblings were cribbed by Magpie of Avon from Girolamo Cardano’s De Consolatione, which has since come to be known as “Hamlet’s Book.” So I don’t know who Shakespeare was, and I can’t tell from his works. One can form a good idea of who Lovecraft was from his fiction alone, and I definitely feel closer to him than to Shakespeare. This is something that doesn’t matter to most readers, who just want to escape to someplace outside their world and yet at the same time want that other world to be in a significant way like their own, that is, where things happen that they can understand. Shakespeare didn’t write anything that even the dullest imagination can’t understand. It’s all soap operas and romantic comedies, just the kind of thing that people enjoy today. Lovecraft doesn’t write for the same audience. He wrote for the sensitive few rather than the happy many.

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