The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The portrayal of Shakespeare on film/TV.

Shakespeare was a genius and a great one – yet, why, I wonder, is his portrayal so often of something else?

Today, I watched the Shakespeare Code episode of Doctor Who. In this The Doctor travels back in time, to Shakespeare’s era (otherwise known as the Elizabethan era) and meets William Shakespeare. I found the portrayal of Shakespeare, on TV, most disagreeable. In this version of old William, he is portrayed as a man whose ideas are often taken from the words of others. Every time he hears an interesting phrase from The Doctor (actually quotes of Shakespeare’s yet to be written works), Shakespeare says: “I’ll use that!” Personally, I really don’t think it is possible or probable that William Shakespeare really worked in this way. His work is too abundant, too fluent, too of a whole, to have depended on bon mots from others. This, in a very real sense, is a libellous portrayal of Shakespeare – it is portraying him, as a plagiarist.

So, too, did the film Shakespeare in Love with Joseph Fiennes portray Shakespeare as a man whose words sometimes came from others. There, too, he was always on the look out for “inspiration” on the lips of others. Again, I don’t think it possible or even remotely likely that Shakespeare worked in this fashion.

The question is: why do screen writers portray Shakespeare on film in this unflattering fashion? I can only assume that it is because they, themselves, actually work in this fashion. It is likely that they are assuming that Shakespeare is just a better version of what they do themselves. So, since they operate by stealing good lines from others, listening out for “inspiration” on others’ lips – they presume that Shakespeare did the same. They are simply projecting their own methods, onto him.

Thus, the next time you see Shakespeare portrayed as a serial plagiarist, realize that this is simply the author’s way of confessing their own nature and practices – and not the truth of William Shakespeare himself. They are just seeing Shakespeare as a super version of themselves.

In a way, it is very disappointing to see a man of such genius as Shakespeare portrayed on film in such a diminished and diminishing light. I would like to see a filmic rendering of his life, that shows him as he must have been: magnificently intelligent and fluent and copiously creative, to the point of being beyond all other men of his time. Now, that would be a portrayal worth seeing – and one that might actually convey some sense of what genius is, and can be.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:20 PM 


Blogger Anna Czarina said...

I may be posting in the wrong category but, I and the others would like to know how your kids are doing at school right now.
As they grow up, isn't there one instance where they've experienced estrangement and indifference among kids their age?
If so, how did they make up for it?

4:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Anna,

Our kids seem to be coping well with the social side of school, so far. I think they have decent social skills so it is not really an issue. Indeed, Fintan, for instance is very popular. He knows how to mix with people of all ages and types.

Ainan is also managing his University experience well. He is accepted and treated even though he is obviously a natural outsider in the situation, I think he is better off there, than in a primary school with kids of his own age (there he really is an outsider).

I think, on the whole, they are doing the right things socially.

If there has been "estrangement and indifference", none of them has mentioned it, to me.

Thanks for asking.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Anna, who are "the others"?

For comparison of real life with what you seemed to be expecting: the day Ainan's O level success at 7 years and 1 month old, was announced in his school, the ENTIRE school cheered and clapped him. He was very touched by their warmth. So, if anything, his experience has been warmer than you might think.


1:44 PM  
Blogger Anna Czarina said...

Thanks for answering my questions Valentine.
The 'others' that I've been referring to are the people who've read this blog. It was just an assumption that they are curious about it as well.

I must say your kids are lucky for not having to experience those social challenges the gifted are faced with.

I wish that would also be true to my brother.
He has his own 'world' and snaps from reality to that world, vice versa. We had him tested, and true enough, he was diagnosed as gifted, and like Ainan, has a strong liking for science. He stares at the sky at any time of the day, muttering scientific terms and solutions. One time, he even declared that it would rain in the afternoon even though it was sunny that morning and no dark clouds were looming over.

Whoops, I got carried away, I'm sorry.

I would just like to ask, How were you able to make them sociable with others or at least, get along with others?

I would really want to help my brother. It will be a sad thing to see my brother's gift go to waste since there are no programs for the gifted here in our place. I think it would help if he could get along with other kids, and hope, that somehow, someone would take notice of his abilities and help us.


7:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Dear Anna,

You are right that gifted children are often misunderstood and marginalized. This is the normal situation. However, it does not have to be that way. One thing you can do is to arrange play dates for your brother (I don't know how old he is). That is, invite around others of his own age - or arrange to go somewhere with them, so as to give him social exposure and a chance to develop his skills.

Good luck with helping your brother become what he should be. He is lucky to have a sister who cares about him. So, he is not alone.

Best wishes.

9:34 PM  

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