"Could Shakespeare Have Thought That?"
George Watson has a simple point to his article "Are Poems Historical Acts." The quote "But Shakespeare can't have thought that" (33) brings to light a very obvious, although missed part of literary criticism. Historical writings were not written in the present to talk about a time in the past. They were written in the past and criticized in the present. As readers we can not read anymore into a word or a sentence than could have been read into it when it was written. For example, take for instance the word "gay". In the days of Shakespeare, "gay" meant happy. So, if someone describes Romeo and Juliet as being "a gay couple", it obviously has to mean the Romeo and Juliet were happy, not homosexual, since they are a male and female. A man and woman being married when they were 14 in a Shakespearean time period was the normal thing to do. We can not criticize it today using our standards of living. Watson makes this point numerous times in his article dealing with not only language, but also age.