The phenomenon of author worship reached its peak with Bardolatry: an over-the-top veneration of Shakespeare. Writers like Thomas Carlyle lauded the Bard as “the chief of all poets hitherto” (Carlyle 95), “the still more melodious Priest of a true Catholicism.” Carlyle suggests “there is actually a kind of sacredness in the fact of such a man being sent into this Earth” (101). Even modern critic Harold Bloom exalts Shakespeare as “the secular canon, or…the secular scripture” (Bloom 23-4). In the eyes of his most fervent followers, Shakespeare is the leader of a literary church, a prodigy burdened by the limitations of this world. The theater, the dwelling place of his hallowed genius, was merely the medium into which “his great soul had to crush itself” so that mortals might approach (Carlyle 100).
These days, this sort of effusive praise is reserved for the Tom Bradys of the world. Carlyle probably weeps in his grave over the girl in my English class who raised her hand after reading Hamlet and said, “I just think Shakespeare is overrated.” Still, we tattoo his sonnets onto biceps, use his one-liners as epigraphs, and watch DiCaprio’s cigarette wag from his mouth as he plays a Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Romeo. Ours has become a rote worship—or a jaded one. My professor told our class that now students study Shakespeare for a sound-byte they can toss into cocktail party conversations, a witty one-liner to cash in for cultural capital.
If there’s anything we might learn from this strange mix of (ir)reverence, it might be those time-weathered words from Project Runway’s Heidi Klum: “one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” So here’s to the idols that we know will fall, inevitably, from grace. The ones that we revere anyway. Sometimes it’s easier to believe in something that isn’t yourself.
For our twenty-sixth issue, Mouth presents "Idolatry"--an assortment of essays, fiction, and poetry about the many things we worship. Included are encounters with a missing Jesus, a story about a walk in the woods, and thoughts on a deceased friend.
We hope you like it.
Bloom, Harold. “An Elegy for the Canon.” The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. New York: Riverhead Books, 1994. 15-39. Print.
Carlyle, Thomas. “The Hero as Poet. Dante; Shakespeare.” On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Ed. David R. Sorenson and Brent E. Kinser. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. 77-103. Print.