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Dear Ira please note the following mistake which slipped into your esteemed article : -Tolstoy read the plays in Russian translation- nah!" For a long time I could not believe in myself, and during fifty years, in order to test myself, I several times recommenced reading Shakespeare in every possible form, in Russian, in English, in German and in Schlegel's translation, as I was advised ...
At the present time, before writing this preface, being desirous once more to test myself, I have, as an old man of seventy-five, again read the whole of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, the "Henrys," "Troilus and Cressida," the "Tempest," "Cymbeline," and I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings,-this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits,-thereby distorting their esthetic and ethical understanding,-is a great evil, as is every untruth. Tolstoy seems a bit obsessed here-"I hate these plays, but I can't stop reading them!
Who can deny the right of arguably the greatest novelist to say what he likes about the greatest dramatist? "-which somehow reminds me of the restaurant joke: "The food's terrible, and the portions are so small."In his critique of Shakespeare, encapsulated in his essay, "King Lear," Tolstoy tosses around bombs that characterize Lear as filled with "incredible events," "mirthless jokes," "wild ravings," and that a dispassionate observer couldn't read it without "aversion and weariness."Letting us know how he really feels, Tolstoy summarizes Shakespeare as not even "an average author," and that his words "have nothing whatever in common with art and poetry."He concludes: "Shakespeare might have been whatever you like, but he was not an artist."George Orwell, as a writer, not chicken liver himself, took a look at this clash of the titans in "Lear, Tolstoy, and the Fool."Orwell agrees in part with Tolstoy's observation that, as drama, the plays are sometimes lacking." is not a very good play, as a play.
However, as a recent European Studies blog post reminded readers, Tolstoy was one notable exception.
Towards the end of his life Tolstoy wrote an extremely harsh essay on Shakespeare entitled , an essay by Ernest Howard Crosby, author, fellow Georgist and friend of Tolstoy, as well as a letter from George Bernard Shaw to Tolstoy’s translator, which is somewhat more subdued in its criticism of the Bard.
As he became the supposedly saintly personage, his wife was annoyed at his lay-about, freeloading, low-life friends and disciples tracking their peasant mud over the carpet. Pacifist Tolstoy did not hesitate to get into shouting matches with his wife, Sophia.
Finally, at age 82, realizing the hypocrisy of remaining on his noble estate, while espousing Christ-like ascetic principles, he hit the mendicant road with his Aleksandra, the daughter that he still loved.
But this Lear like move had the trappings of a safety net.
It was kind of like when your five-year-old runs away from home, but you follow him right behind.
It is too drawn-out and has too many characters and sub-plots.
One wicked daughter would have been quite enough, and Edgar is a superfluous character: indeed it would probably be a better play if Gloucester and both his sons were eliminated."But aside from possibly missing the poetry-Tolstoy read the plays in Russian translation-Orwell argues that in his later years as Tolstoy was evolving his ideas of Christian pacifism, which had an almost Buddhist sense of abnegation, he had little patience for art that did not have a moral outlook: "[Tolstoy's] main aim, in his later years, was to narrow the range of human consciousness.