Euphonium wrote:Shakespeare was a talentless hack who is impossible to take seriously.
You seem to be basing your argument on a notion of artistic expression that I find to be pretty wacky; I'm not going to try to argue you out of it. But I would like to try to convince you that Shakespeare was more than a talentless hack: whatever you might say about the emotional content of his works, Shakespeare had an astonishing gift for making the English language dance.
Consider the first long paragraph that Hamlet gets to speak, just from the perspective of its rhythmic flow:
some talentless hack wrote:Hamlet
Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
The passage starts with a one-line prelude (almost like the last line of recitative that sets up an aria), one which is broken up into three small syntactic units: two words, stop. Three words, stop. Four words, stop. It grounds the passage rhythmically, and it's anchored on both ends by the word that sparks the diatribe: "seem."
From there it launches into a long-breathed gust of ideas that just refuses to come to rest. Each new line of iambic pentameter is pushed forward by a negation: the first one, "not," lands on a strong beat, whereas the next few "nor"s serve as pickups. The fifth line hits a bump with two
negatives: "no" jumps in, delaying the expected "nor" into an accented syllable. "Nor" picks up that accent like a sponge, and carries it into the next line, disrupting the meter into "Nór thè dèjécted." The jolt (or is it a lilt?) signals that we're finally coming to the end of the long tirading list...
Only not quite yet. It shifts into high gear, spitting out a string of monosyllables ("forms, moods, shapes of grief," crescendoing to "shapes"), arriving finally
on a pause with the colon after truly. The new clause after the colon ("these indeed seem") breaks the meter far more strongly than anything up to this point: after the stressed final syllable of "indeed" it jams in a second one: "seem." Seem, the focus of the rant, said here as the climax of the passage... jammed into the meter like a wrench in the works. It's highlighted all the more by the scarcity of accented "ee" vowels throughout the rest of the passage. (No coincidence, of course, that "indeed" had one.)
After that extra-heavy, extra-metrical stress, the passage subsides into its rhymed conclusion. But not without one final wobble: the word "these," in the last line, as if remembering the climax, seems to want an accent, the whole tirade boiled down to this one pronoun. If you give it one, the result is the same lilting rhythm as we had in line six ("nor the dejected...").
As a whole, the eleven lines break down into 1+5+5: the prelude, the list, and the rest. The closing lines of the two larger blocks share the same syncopation, so the whole design has a nice symmetry to it. Except it's a symmetry that's cut across by the syntactic units: the ranted list barrels past the halfway point into the seventh line. And as we've already mentioned, you don't actually reach a point of arrival until the colon after "truly," which itself falls in the middle of a line, not at an end. So there's a nice, stable formal structure that the actual rhythm of the speech works against, building up to a delayed (and thus heightened) climax.
That's a whole bunch of lovely little subtleties, and I haven't said a word about imagery, symbolism, diction, and I've made only the slightest mentions of tone and phonetics. And, of course, all of this without a word about how this colors our conception of Hamlet's character (remember that this is our first introduction to him), or the obvious but delicious way in which this passage, like the play as a whole, is about the nature of acting (both in the sense of "doing something" and of "playing a part").
So I don't think I'd call Shakespeare a hack.