Shakespeare Did Not Have An MFA. Where Did He Learn His Stuff?

Emily Ann Theatre & GardensIt’s August in Central Texas and that means it’s Shakespeare season at the Emily Ann Theatre and Gardens in Wimberley, Texas.

For the fourth year now, Miss E. auditioned and won herself a spot on the cast.  This year they did Richard III and oh my, oh my, oh my.  This particular piece of work is a full historical, dense, with umpteen million lines.  Even after the artistic director cut out a few monologues the play still ran nearly two hours.

Can you imagine a cast of middle and high schoolers memorizing all those lines?  I can’t.  It must be because their minds, like their bodies, are young and nimble.

Shakespeare was a fairly prolific writer.  His plays run the gamut from historicals, tragedies, and comedies and if that’s not enough, he also wrote poetry.  He was busy in his short life of 52 years and he was one of those people who was unafraid to write about the human condition.

So where did he learn this stuff?  There were no writing classes for him to attend, no MFA’s to enroll in.  Yet, he was, simply put, an amazing scrivener of everything that makes us human and today, his work is being performed all the time.

My kingdom for a horse!

A horse!  My kingdom for a horse!

Whoever he was, Shakespeare was bold and masterful in writing exactly what he wanted to write, without regard to what anyone else thought or said.  He wrote from his heart and because of that, he was the cream of the crop when it came to interpreting the human condition and putting it out there where all can see.

That’s how we should write.

Let’s shift gears for a moment and think about the two sides of fiction:  literary versus commercial (or genre).  Today, there is a great debate on the merits of these two sides of that coin and the outcome so far is that many readers and writers alike are viewing commercial fiction with disdain.  Commercial fiction is getting bullied on the playground and is being insulted and given the finger because it’s not good enough.  It’s not “art.”


How many of you like rock and roll music?  What about country?  Classical?  Rap?  I think this whole fiction debate thing is akin to saying that classical music is the ONLY music to listen to because it’s the only type of music that’s art.  Everything else you like?  Fugitaboutit.

Even Shakespeare embraced diversity in his writing.  Think about Romeo and Juliet.  If it weren’t for the ending, I think it would fit very well on modern day romance shelves.

I for one, am thankful that we have both literary and commercial fiction.  This world would be a boring place to live if all I could read was literary fiction because, dagnabbit, there are times in which I simply want to be entertained.

Each type of human creation whether it be music, drama, visual arts, or the written word is worthy.  Sure some may take your breath away and others may make you roll your eyes (and for those of you who still read non-digital books, even some of those may make you want to throw them against the wall because they’re written so badly) but so what?  They are still creations.

Where am I going with this?  If you’re a writer or wannabe writer, don’t buy into the “this type of fiction is good and that other one is not” because no one genre is any better than the other.

I repeat:  no one genre is any better than the other.

Write what moves you, what excites you.  Write what makes you happy, sad, or scared.  Even terrified.  Let it flow out of you in whatever form it presents itself whether it be plays, screenplays, poetry or prose.  If you want to write literary fiction.  Do it.  If you want to write commercial fiction.  Go for it.  No genre is any better than the other.  Just be aware that there are different audiences for the various types of writing.

Like Shakespeare, be fearless and be bold.  And like Shakespeare, write from your heart.

Henry VII, Earl of Richmond

Henry VII, Earl of Richmond

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