Whatever else Shakespeare’s dramas had to do, they had to attract a late Elizabethan/early Stuart audience of ordinary people to pay money to go to the playhouse. Shakespeare was a ratings chaser. If punters thought his play too slow, too obscure, too difficult, then he would have failed. So his art was not part of a refined world, but a product of popular culture. I think what I’m suggesting here is that the mass of people — whose wishes are often to be understood in what they choose to spend their money on — actually help to provoke the most dynamic and successful art.

Do you agree with David Aaronovitch? Let us know what you think. David was writing after Peter Bazalgette, the TV producer who brought Big Brother to Britain, was appointed as chairman of the rather more refined Arts Council England (read more)

Where Shakespeare’s Prince Hal and his pals drink and debauch in the Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap, his latter-day namesake favours Boujis in South Kensington and the five-star Wynn hotel in Vegas. Where Hal parties with Mistress Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, Pistol, Bardolph and, above all, the irrepressible Falstaff, Harry has his posse of red-trousered, upper-class double-barrels to egg him on. If the tequila slammer and naked billiards had been invented in 1597, Shakespeare would have worked them into the script.

Ben Macintyre likens Prince Harry’s escapades to Prince Hal’s fifteenth century debauchery

Philistinism rising | Oliver Kamm

My column in the Jewish Chronicle this week deals with the protests against the Israeli theatre company Habima, which performed its Hebrew-language version of The Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre in London last week.

I’m against cultural and academic boycotts. The attempts to shut down performances by Israeli artists are not an advance for a two-state territorial solution: they’re an attack on artistic freedom.

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