September 06, 2016 | Graham

Q&A’s most left wing panel on UK’s most famous monarchist

Q&A last night was a panel discussion on Shakespeare featuring Germaine Greer, Anthony Grayling, some minor colonial celebs and John Bell.

While the politics of the Australians was not announced, I suspect that they all hail hard from the left.

This is odd, as from what we know of Shakespeare he was the son of a local politician who became a theatrical entrepreneur and apologist for the Tudor monarchy, amassing a fortune along the way.

So, if you attack Shakespeare from the left you miss a lot of what he is talking about – issues like the legitimacy of state power and what makes a nation.

Pity Dame Leonie Kramer is not still with us to enliven and enlighten a panel such as this.

The questions were mostly a succession of trivialities, showing just how far post-modernism has undermined any wide understanding of the literary classics.

The one which amused me most was:

ALANA VALENTINE asked: I am a working playwright. Could the box office royalties that Shakespeare would be entitled to as the author of each of his produced plays be paid into a fund to be used to commission and produce new Australian work?

I’ve never heard of her, but according to Wikipedia

Alana Valentine is “a critically successful Australian playwright.” [1][2][3] She holds a Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies from the University of Sydney (2000).[4]

Not sure what “critically successful” means, and hope it is nothing like “critically ill”, but it appears she’s not making a lot of money.

Wikipedia lists her plays which include Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah: Soft Revolution (2010), which “is about ‘how Islamic women think and feel about’ wearing the hijab.[Wikipedia again]. The others appear to be in the same sort of boringly sociological vein.

So here we have a writer of not very remunerative plays proposing to tax the intellectual estate of a 400 year old playwright so she can continue to write poor literature which will be viewed mainly by forced audiences of school children (some of her plays are on the NSW syllabus).

Did any of the panel point out that the best way to support yourself as a playwright is to follow Shakespeare and write plays that people will want to pay money to watch?

You know the answer.

No, instead we got some defensive drivel from John Bell defending the lack of post mortem socialism by describing his practice when at the Nimrod Theatre.

So we’d put on a Shakespeare to fill the house, and then the commission we would have paid to Shakespeare’s agent we paid into commissioning a new Australian work.

That is of course how capitalism works, and Shakespeare would have approved. The playwrights John was reinvesting the money into were people like David Williamson.

Alana obviously doesn’t see any of that money. But could that be because she’ll never be another Williamson, let alone a Shakespeare.

But how many playwrights are we holding back from actually reaching the heights because they’re being trained by their elders to suck on the public teat so they can write plays no one wants to read, rather than learning the lessons of Shakespeare and writing plays in which people will want to invest because others want to pay good money to watch them?

Doubt we’ll be reading Alana in 40 years time, but Shakespeare, and David Williamson, are still likely to be going strong.

Posted by Graham at 1:59 pm | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. In the Netherlands the government subsidises painters. Warehouses are full of painters that are not good enough to be exhibited or sold. I wrote a story that was published. The periodical that published it was supported by the Victorian Ministry for the Arts and Arts for Australians. Although the taxpayers paid for my ego trip I did not feel bad enough about that to refuse the cheque. Shakespeare was supported by noble patronage. George Eliot and Charles Dickens were not. I have mixed feelings about government support for the arts.

    Comment by David Fisher — September 7, 2016 @ 11:36 am

  2. Correction – Warehouses are full of paintings that are not good enough to be exhibited or sold.

    Comment by David Fisher — September 7, 2016 @ 11:39 am

  3. Shakespeare may have received royal commissions, but that doesn’t mean he was dependent on them. Quite clearly he made his money from the people who came to the Globe and the Swan.

    I wouldn’t deny there is some role for the state in purchasing artistic services, for examples paintings for official buildings, but that is different from paying unsuccessful people to produce things that the public doesn’t want to pay for.

    That just encourages bad art and mediocrity, as evidenced by your Netherlands story of the warehouses stocked with un displayable paintings.

    Comment by Graham — September 8, 2016 @ 2:10 pm

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