Last night This American Life host Ira Glass, who has just recently been getting the hang of Twitter, threw out an idle thought that sent the internet into a tailspin: does Shakespeare *gasp* suck?
@JohnLithgow as Lear tonight: amazing. Shakespeare: not good. No stakes, not relatable. I think I'm realizing: Shakespeare sucks.— Ira Glass (@iraglass) July 28, 2014
He was pegging it to a performance of King Lear at Shakespeare in the Park that he attended with Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer among others (the selfie can be found here) and, as one helpful tweeter pointed out to him, he accidentally addressed his complaint to John Lithgow, making it seem especially abusive. It's hard to tell if he's kidding or not—according to these two tweets, Shakespeare is good for actors but otherwise unrelatable to modern audiences.
Same thing with the great Mark Rylance shows this yr: fantastic acting, surprisingly funny, but Shakespeare is not relatable, unemotional.— Ira Glass (@iraglass) July 28, 2014
After sending a couple brisk replies, Glass has not returned to Twitter in the 14 hours since he communicated his revolutionary, counter-cultural ideas (UPDATE: he's back, but not talking about Shakespeare yet). But the much-admired NPR host is enough of an arbiter of taste that people are wondering if he has a point, or maybe just isn't getting it, when it comes to the Bard. Grantland/EW columnist Mark Harris wondered if perhaps Glass was trolling his twitterati as some sort of social experiment:
Really hoping that the "Shakespeare sucks" tweets from @iraglass are a Twitter experiment rather than a stab at contrarianism.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) July 28, 2014
New York Times columnist Jason Zinoman took my personal favorite approach, quoting whole verse from Lear:
And hear poor rogues talk of court news. and we'll talk with them too- Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out...— Jason Zinoman (@zinoman) July 28, 2014
Some of the funniest responses include:
Ira Glass had better not dis my man Molière, yo— Jaime J. Weinman (@weinmanj) July 28, 2014
If Ira Glass disses almond milk today the head of every public radio fan is going to explode.— A.S. Paul (@aspaul) July 28, 2014
But New York Magazine's Matt Zoller Seitz said he took the wrong approach in saying "Shakespeare sucks," which made it sound less like Glass was expressing a personal opinion and more like he was stating a fact. Essentially, if Ira Glass told you to jump off a bridge, would you?
@krisvire Glass wasn't saying "I personally do not like Shakespeare" and leaving it at that, though. It was closer to "Shakespeare sux."— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) July 28, 2014
We hope Mr. Glass quickly returns to his mentions column to address this important issue before it reaches fever pitch. Should we like Shakespeare, or shouldn't we!? Tell us, Ira! Why won't you tell us?!
UPDATE: Ira is, unsurprisingly, retreating a little bit from his "off-the-cuff" comments, perhaps remembering that he is a journalist and radio host and not a culture critic.
He told EW that “That was kind of an off-the-cuff thing to say that in the cold light of day, I’m not sure I can defend at all.”