What, exactly, makes what is classified as a good piece of art? Many would argue that if one were to compare the works of Shakespeare alongside those of Britney Spears, the result would be that Shakespeare’s works are indeed art, whereas Spears’ would be entertainment for the masses. The website thephilosophersnet.com allows you to put this question to the test and see for yourself what the logical outcome of your decisions is.
Firstly, let us think of what the main components of art is. The website at hand displays these following criteria for a piece of art: The work displays great technical ability, the work is enjoyable, the work conveys the feelings of the artist, the work conveys an important moral lesson or helps us to live better lives, the formal features of the work are harmonious and/or beautiful, the work reveals an insight into reality. A problem arises from these categories though, which is that these are based on one’s own opinion. What is convenient about this website is that it allows you to rank each criterion on a scale of one to five based on how much you personally believe the criteria is relevant or important to how it contributes overall to the work of art. Then again, at the end of the day, the result that is generated about art is always one’s own opinion. And as it is commonly accepted, each individual shares a different opinion to the next.
Then, as is expected, the website asks of you to then rate the works of the two artists chosen from a list ranging, indeed, from Shakespeare to Britney Spears with all in between, against the criteria set, and against the importance that you had assigned to each of the criteria. Finally, it finishes the questionnaire with a question titled ‘Desert Island Delight’, and asks you to pick, if you were stranded on a desert island for twenty-four hours, which of the artists you would choose to take with you.
In my own opinion, I would choose to be stuck with the works of Shakespeare rather than those of Britney Spears. Following the criteria mentioned earlier, I will now explain my reasoning for this decision.
The first criteria is whether the works of the artist chosen display great technical ability. I know, first and foremost, even though Spears is a renowned performer, she is not more than that commonly. She does not write her own music, although occasionally for some tracks she does indeed co-write, but only in a minor way, perhaps tweaking a lyric, or throwing in a run here or there. She merely displays the ability to convey the piece of music, (what I believe to be the original piece of art), rather than creating it from the bottom up herself. Whereas with Shakespeare, it is widely accepted that he wrote the plays by his own hand; although there are instances of his actors taking advantage of the lack of copyright laws in that era and writing the play’s lines out as a group and publishing the play for their own profit (still under the name of Shakespeare), or even a recent conspiracy as to whether there really was a man named William Shakespeare and that he was the one indeed who wrote the plays, or if they were a group of people together. If that were the case, I would see the work of a different man, or many together, as working under a pseudonym or even under a band title. Still, the work that they produced was in fact their own creation devised through their technical ability, whereas with Spears she is simply performing a piece of work that is devised through another’s technical ability rather than her own.
The second criterion asks whether the works of the artist are enjoyable. Now, this is highly down to each individual’s opinion. In my opinion, although Spears songs are enjoyable, say, when you’re taking a shower and want to sing along to some catchy music, the delight I found in Shakespeare is somewhat more eternal than the momentary joy that I find in singing along to a familiar tune.
Thirdly, it asks whether the works of the artist convey his or her feelings. I think this is a rather badly worded question, and would like to point out that I believe that a piece of art conveys emotion; any emotion, not just that of the artist in the moment. Such as a painting, one might simply be meaning to convey the feeling of depression through paint, rather than actually being depressed themselves. Nonetheless, this goes back to the initial writing of the work. Although Spears ultimately decides which songs she shall perform, they are not her own words, and therefore not her own emotions or past experience with emotion. Whereas with Shakespeare, all of the works were of the same source, as apparent through writing style, and therefore are based on the writer’s own experience with emotion.
Next, it asks if the works of the artist convey important moral lessons. Although I again think that this is not a very important aspect of an artistic work, I believe that Shakespeare has much more to say in the department of important moral lessons than Spears. Shakespeare writes of friendships and families, love and insanity, and everything in between, whereas most of Spears’ music is concerned with lustrous activities and the pursuit of them.
The website also asks if the formal features of the work are harmonious and/or beautiful. I assume that what it means to ask is that if the artist is a musician, if their music sounds good, or if a painter their work displays a profound aesthetic. I would like to say, that although Spears does churn out a good party anthem, and does in fact include harmonies in the music she produces (to take the question literally), it is in the works of Shakespeare the harmony and beauty come together. From the beauty of the poetry and rhyme scheme in much of his work, including his sonnets, and from the clear imagery that those who understand the words he uses creates, Shakespeare again demonstrates through my criteria that he is a superior artist to Spears.
The final criterion asked of on the website is whether the works of the artist reveal an insight into reality. This is a very interesting criterion, in my point of view. This is considering that I see that both artists at hand show an insight in to what is known as reality, although in significantly different ways. As aforementioned, Spears demonstrates a very knowledgeable insight into human desire and necessity, and very common human emotions and situations which mostly convey relationship status and the forming and breaking of thereof. In Shakespeare, a wider array of realistic insight is demonstrated. In his plays and sonnets the theme human desire and relationship status is indeed present, although he does explore many more topics, such as insanity, power struggle, mayhem and chaos, discrimination and exploitation. So, once again, Shakespeare dominates over Spears in another of the criterion presented by the website.
In conclusion, based on my analysis of both Shakespeare and Spears in relation to the criteria given, it can be safely said that in my own opinion, Shakespeare is the superior artist. But, again, this is my own opinion. True art cannot be exactly defined due to its nature to be interpreted differently from person to person. This boils down to our very human characteristic to be different and hold different opinions to those around us. Each individual is exactly that; individual, and therefore an accurate knowledge of what art really is can never be attained.
 http://allmusic.com/album/baby-one-more-time-r384763/review “Allmusic”, 2012. Accessed 16.4.12