On reading Shakespeare to cats

11 09 2008

The first taste of art is spontaneously sensual, it is the discovery of an absorbing entertainment, an absorbing pleasure. If you ask anyone who enjoys ballet or any other art how he got started, he will tell you that he enjoyed it long before he knew what it meant or how it worked. I remember the intense pleasure reading Shelley’s Adonais gave me as a boy – long before I followed accurately the sense of the words; and once, twenty years later, I had two kittens who would purr in unison and watch me bright eyed when I read them Shakespeare’s sonnets, clearly pleased by the compliment and by the sounds they heard. Would they have enjoyed them better if they had understood them? The answer is, they enjoyed them very much. Many a college graduate might have envied them.

-Edwin Denby, from Dance Writings and Poetry

How we mutiliate, then, when we pretend to alter form and style under the┬ápretense that the content remains the same? In reality, we are just as moulded by the exterior of things as by their “profound” and “essential” meanings.