Stephen Greenblatt is John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard. He is the author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. His latest book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, received the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.
Much Ado About Nothing a film directed by Joss Whedon
The Classical Tradition edited by Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most, and Salvatore Settis
Coriolanus a film directed by Ralph Fiennes
Die Walküre an opera by Richard Wagner, directed by Robert Lepage, and conducted by James Levine
The Merchant of Venice a play by William Shakespeare, directed by Daniel Sullivan
Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
Macbeth a play by William Shakespeare, directed by Rupert Goold
Macbeth an opera by Giuseppe Verdi, directed by Adrian Noble
In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal by Niklaus Largier, translated from the German by Graham Harman
The World of Christopher Marlowe by David Riggs
Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy by Park Honan
Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation by Thomas W. Laqueur
An American archaeologist friend here in Rome, where I’m spending my sabbatical, was working for a time in Salerno, in the south of Italy, and found himself annoyed by the thugs who lounged near the main square and approached him, when he intended to park there, offering, for a small fee, to “protect” the car from anyone who might wish to damage it. It was bad enough when he thought it was only he, a foreigner, who was treated to this shake-down, but, as he idly watched one day, my friend realized that the louts were equal-opportunity predators: they made the same offer to local businessmen, little old ladies, factory workers. And worse still, they went about their business within sight of the uniformed carabinieri who stood chatting with each other in front of the police station. My friend expressed his outrage to a Salernitano acquaintance: the nuisance was not an unfamiliar one in America, he complained, but it seemed unaccountable to have it take place under the gaze of the authorities. Look, the acquaintance said to him, with the resignation of a native, everyone has to make a living.
I grew up in Boston in the 1950s, so I immediately grasped the basic idea of Roman street signs: they are there not to inform you ahead of time where you might want to turn but rather to confirm where you have already turned, once the fateful decision has been made. And at least Romans reliably tell you the name of the street or highway to which you have now committed yourself.
Stephen Greenblatt writes of Joss Whedon's take, "We are rather on familiar ground, and, as if to conjure up the ordinary accoutrements of modern American upper-middle-class life, the camera dwells lovingly on the kitchen counter."