Someone once described the Shakespeasre Canon to me as "the silly putty of Western Culture", observing that by reinterpretating it we are not only reinterpreting Shakespeare but Western Culture as well.If that's the function of Shakespeare's opus: to be a field wherein we endlessly restage our cultural battles and by subtleties of one sort or another use Shakeswpeare as a proxy for our modern concerns, malaises, and ennuis. etc, then the difficulty in knowing his real intent with any exactitude is the eessential ingredient that makes the putty almost endlessly malleable. And unlike "isms" of modern times which are guarded by an official elite almost anyone can join the fray and reshape our world view. In short, the obscurity of his real "intent" is essential to his pivotal role in our culture.
That's why I've always particularly enjoye Shakespeare films. The layers of interpretation go something like this:
You now, interpreting:
A director in some time past (whether last year or 50 years ago), interpreting:
it adds a whole other layer, as you get to watch people from another time applying Shakespeare to their own unique set of circumstances. For example, I don't think its any mistake that the two major Henry V films were both made in Britain during a major war effort.
"Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, that, if I then had wak'd after long sleep, will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming, the clouds methought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me, that, when I wak'd, I cried to dream again"
Well... I rather did think the "mirror" image (Shakespeare: Mirror to Man was an educational film from the... 70's? 80's?) was a bit more dignified, but a mirror implies self-consciousness, while Silly Putty is kinesthetically expressive. You don't have to think about how you look and how the world looks when you're playing with a wad of goo and a newspaper. You are free to find expression and impression, and you have absolute power over the shape of your impression. *goes off into a spew of Hegelian terms, later edited by the Pragmatic Ellinore Geek Audit Squad*
Five bucks says there will be a good production of Hamlet this year in which Hamlet is the villain -- so determined to see someone to blame for his father's death that he starts seeing things and suspecting everyone. I mean, he kills someone for yelling behind his mother's arras, how "strike first" is that?
(...Wonder if it could be said that all good art is like silly putty, reapplicable over time and constantly picking up new meaning and imagery and shape? What if silly-putty-ness is an essential quality of Good Art?)
This topic seems to approach Bloom's point about the Invention of the Human. WS provides the archetypes of action by which we define western culture. It is useful to us precisely because of it's interpretive flexibility. If we knew without consideration what WS meant when he wrote it, then all these discussions would lack purpose. But the ultimate argument from authority on the texts, that of the author, is lost to us.