The Shakespearian City

W.H. Auden, “The Shakespearian City,” The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays (New York: Vintage, 1968), 171-274


We do not know what Shakespeare’s personal beliefs were, not his opinion on any subject (though most of us privately think we do). All we can notice is an ambivalence in his feelings towards his characters which is, perhaps, characteristic of all great dramatists. A dramatist’s characters are, normally, men-of-action, but he himself is a maker, not a doer, concerned not with disclosing himself to others in the moment, but with making a work which, unlike himself, will endure, if possible forever.