May 10Liked by Debra Esolen

Shakespeare's monologues and speeches are unrivaled, in my opinion, even by many of his contemporaries and followers. Yes, even though I did my Master's Thesis on Milton, I have never found a better speech even in Paradise Lost (which has many absolute masterpieces) than some of Shakespeare's. He is the master for a reason.

I do believe that there was a television adaptation of the history plays on the BBC a few years back that drew its overarching title from this speech: "The Hollow Crown." A striking title, to be sure--it would be great for a novel, but I think it betrays that the creators of the show have the same perspective on the plays as Richard II himself has: that the crown is ultimately hollow and meaningless. A very modern idea, really, and probably not one Shakespeare would have seen as the true meaning of this speech, or his work.

But then again, it wouldn't be the first time that the masses of today have divorced a Shakespeare line from context and applied it to themselves. After all, there are hundreds who parrot that famous line of Polonius, "This above all: to thine own self be true," thinking that it's sage advice without knowing the irony of it, which is that it is advice given out by the biggest doofus in "Hamlet."

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