Virginia Woolf on Shakespeare
I read Shakespeare directly I have finished writing. When my mind is agape and red-hot. Then it is astonishing. I never yet knew how amazing his stretch and speed and word coining power is, until I felt it utterly outpace and outrace my own, seeming to start equal and then I see him draw ahead and do things I could not in my wildest tumult and utmost press of mind imagine. Even the less known plays are written at a speed that is quicker than anybody else’s quickest; and the words drop so fast one can’t pick them up. Look at this. “Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.” (That is a pure accident. I happen to light on it.) Evidently the pliancy of his mind was so complete that he could furbish out any train of thought; and, relaxing, let fall a shower of such unregarded flowers. Why then should anyone else attempt to write? This is not “writing” at all. Indeed, I could say that Shakespeare surpasses literature altogether, if I knew what I meant.
From the Diaries, April 13th, 1930