Readers' Club Activity

Start Date: 
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Start Time: 
09:30 am
Google Meet

Shakespeare v/s Milton: The Kings of English Literature Debate

The Readers’ Club of the Department of English organized a virtual discussion on “Shakespeare v/s Milton: The Kings of English Literature Debate” on May 31, 2021 at 9:30 am. The session was led by Gauri Sharma from MA Sem. 4 who began the activity by extending a warm welcome to all.

The audience was shown a few short clips from the debate-video put together by Intelligence Squared on the battle of Britain’s literary titans, advocated by distinguished scholars Prof. James Shapiro from Columbia University, USA, making the case for the Bard of Avon and Prof. Nigel Smith, from Princeton University, USA, speaking in favour of the visionary poet, John Milton, aided by three actors bringing to life their chefœuvres by their readings.

The discussion began with an astute observation that Shakespeare penetratingly
explores diverse human relationships ranging from father-son, father-daughter
and mother-son to sister-sister, brother-brother and master-servant in his plays
as well as poetry, thus being justly called “the great poet of relationships.” This
was made in reference to the scene performed from Much Ado About Nothing
between Benedick and Beatrice which is the “wittiest banter between a man and
a woman” where not only the two are confessing their love for each other, but
also Benedict is being asked to murder his friend, Claudio!

A brief reference was made to Shakespeare’s language as a playwright and poet
and which was quickly followed by the fact that Milton’s language surpassed
Shakespeare’s “in his command, music, the weight, the taste and texture of
English words”, but falls short in his grasp over human psychology when pitted
against the Bard. The fact of the absence of a director during Shakespeare’s
days leaving the actors to collaboratively make sense of the scenes themselves,
was highlighted as well.

It was further observed that Shakespeare wrote far more nuanced and complex
characters and his main purpose, however, was to please the mass demographic
in order to further his theatre sales whereas Milton’s poetic purpose was purely
scholastic. This was carried over to the fact that the nineteenth century audience
would have perhaps placed Milton as high as Shakespeare, if not higher!

With such an absorbing pursuit of dispute, the wholesome and enriching session
came to an end with the conclusion that both the literary giants explored the
essential human condition and represented human frailties and foibles.