Shakespeare, pop culture discussed

By Victoria Pedersen/ reporter

William Shakespeare

NE Campus’ annual Shakespeare Festival focused on Shakespeare’s identity and his influence on current artists who choose to remain anonymous despite their success.

“Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer of the English language,” English associate professor Rebecca Balcarcel said. “His characters lead the self to deeper reflection.”

Balcarcel, author of poetry books and journal articles, said Shakespeare’s identity was in question in a number of areas. Since no signatures appeared on his plays, he could not be identified as the author.

“Shakespeare had to disguise his writing because of his political ideas,” she said. “The work matters more than the author.”

NE English department chair Eric Devlin, who also performs at Shakespeare Dallas and the Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth, compared the playwright to other writers of his time.

Shakespeare was not considered an intellectual like other writers, and they questioned whether he could have written the plays, Devlin said. Attending a small village school six days per week, he said, Shakespeare studied Latin and classical texts, which prepared him for writing plays.

“Literacy was not widespread,” he said. “Playwrights painted pictures in the oral tradition. Drama was written in verse. Iambic pentameter helps an actor remember.”

Devlin said Shakespeare had qualities other writers lacked.

“His lyrics and imagery transcended [Christopher] Marlowe,” he said.

English associate professor Edwardo Perez compared female identities with Shakespeare and Game of Thrones archetypes. In Shakespeare’s world, identity does not change, but in Game of Thrones, identity changes, Perez said.

“Archetype equals identity equals power,” he said. “The women have more than one identity and change.”

English instructor Amanda Myers discussed Shakespeare’s lack of identity as compared to today’s pop culture icons.

Historical oral traditions in music came from the Griots of West Africa, she said, like gospel, blues, rap and hip-hop.

“Oral traditions were taught through rhyme,” she said. “We find out who we are. Hamlet is rhythmic, written in Norse verse. It uses universal themes.”

As in Shakespeare’s work, hip-hop uses universal themes, experiences, rhythms, rhyme and wordplay, Myers said.

“Shakespeare is the original gangster,” she said.