Skip to main content

2013 Birthday Cake photo DSCF3323_zps20836d61.jpg

Master Shakespeare's 2013 Birthday Cake

A couple of weeks ago, thinking of Shakespeare’s April 23rd birthday and wondering what sort of cake to order this year, I became extremely cross. Not because of the Master himself, but because of the authorship conspiracy controversy. Unfortunately there exists a multitude of querulous persons who affirm that anyone, yes, anyone but Shakespeare wrote the plays, the sonnets, and the epic poems.

Why is Leonardo da Vinci not subjected to such treatment?

After all, Leonardo was the illegitimate son of an illiterate peasant woman and a notary public. How could he possibly have achieved anything but a rather ordinary olive harvest?

The article at the link states:

Da Vinci received no formal education beyond basic reading, writing and math, but his father appreciated his artistic talent and apprenticed him at around age 15 to the noted sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio, of Florence.
Oh, no!  Leonardo da Vinci didn’t go to college!  How could he possibly have painted and sculpted so wonderfully?  It must have been Botticelli or Michelangelo—they must have been the artists who really created the paintings and sculpture. And Leo never attended architecture school nor earned a degree in engineering, so how could he have filled those notebooks with architectural and engineering drawings?  The notebooks must have been written by someone too high and mighty to have his name associated with such things, so he let da Vinci take the credit.

It all sounds patently ridiculous. Perhaps the reason that Shakespeare’s reputation is subjected to such contumely is that it’s simply easier to pick on someone who spoke English, and after all, London is only 3,465 miles from New York—much closer than Florence, Italy.

What is the basis of the anti-Stratfordians’ argument?  That Shakespeare was too uneducated, too much of a country bumpkin, to have written the plays.  He simply lent his name so the Earl of Southampton, who really wrote them, wouldn’t embarrass his family by being openly allied with the theatre.  (Wouldn’t embarrass his family?  Did Southampton not know that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth liked plays and wanted to see plays?  And moreover, demanded that there be an entire play devoted to Falstaff, because that fictional rascal made her laugh?)

From Shakespeare Bites Back, a delightful e-book, comes the pointed reminder that Master Shakespeare’s life and works were not exactly “anonymous” to his contemporaries:

Then comes a mass of evidence from his contemporaries in works surviving either
in print or in manuscript. During his lifetime Shakespeare is frequently mentioned
by name as a writer, sometimes in general terms, at other times explicitly. He is
identified as the author of plays and poems by writers including Henry Willobie,
William Covell, Richard Barnfield, John Weever, Thomas Freeman, Anthony
Scoloker, and the anonymous author of the Parnassus plays (in which a character
wants a portrait of him as a pin-up: ‘O, sweet Master Shakespeare, I’ll have his
picture in my study at the court’, and also wishes to ‘worship sweet Master
Shakespeare, and to honour him will lay his Venus and Adonis under my pillow’).
Other writers who mention him include Henry Chettle, William Camden, William
Barksted, Leonard Digges, and the dramatist John Webster.
Very likely the real reason the authorship conspiracy argument exists is probably nothing more than sheer snobbery: this Stratford boy who made so very good didn’t go to college.

So what?  Genius cares not for family, fortune, education, or social position.  Genius bestows its gift where it will. Shakespeare was a genius.

It is said that a writer is “one on whom nothing is lost.”  London was, and is, a port. Ships came sailing into London in the 16th century; dock workers unloaded cargoes in London; sailors came swaggering into the pubs of Southwark. “We’ve just come from overseas,” they may have said. “Went up the coast of Italy and actually even traveled to Bohemia to deliver some goods.”

“Well met,” Shakespeare might have replied.  “I give you good evening.  Let me buy you a pint of the best ale. Landlord!”

Like all writers, Shakespeare would have loved stories. Not only did he read whatever books came his way, he also would have listened to many a traveler’s tale in many a London tap room. And that man, that writer, on whom nothing was lost, would have listened to tales about Italy, Bohemia, Denmark, and Greece.  “You went to Denmark?  What’s it like?  What kind of weather do they have, what kind of clothes do they wear, do they eat the same things we eat?”

Everything a writer reads, hears, observes, and breathes all goes into a kind of inner, invisible “well.” There it simmers away until the magic is summoned forth by the writer, who transforms it into a play, a sonnet, a short story, a blog. Everything a writer is becomes tangible in his or her work.  It is said that to write a book is to give oneself away in every line: that is entirely true. We can deduce an author’s personality, intelligence, even quirks or prejudices, from what he or she writes.

The greatest genius I’ve ever met, my late father Edward, grew up in the Depression with seven hungry siblings.  His formal education ended with the eighth grade, after which he was considered old enough to contribute to the family’s always-depleted exchequer. But the depth and range of his intellect and interests were staggering.  One day I’ll write a diary about the collection of poems, novels, essays, and excerpts he patiently typed night after night, and caused to be bound into three huge volumes called Landfalls. He did this because he knew he would be posted to Fort Sam Houston when we returned to the USA, and therefore deprived of access to his library. He was passionately interested in poetry, English literature, astronomy, philosophy, mathematics, modern history, linguistics, and art. Yet he was born into a family so poor that at mealtimes each child ate with his arms around his plate so the others couldn’t snatch his food. My father and his elder brother Eugene possessed one shirt between them; one day Eugene would wear the shirt to school, the next day Edward would wear it.

That’s why I find it easy to believe that genius can strike even in non-rich, non-university-educated families. I’ve known a couple of such geniuses. Both were born into poor or lower-middle class families. One did earn a bachelor’s degree, but that’s all. Yet he is one of the most imaginative novelists I’ve ever read and his science fiction awes me, even as it fills me with delight.

So let us agree that Master Shakespeare was a genius who wrote the plays, the sonnets, Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece.  In the introduction to Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, Asimov says:

…we who speak English can read, in the original, the writings of William Shakespeare, a man who is certainly the supreme writer through all the history of English literature and who, in the opinion of many, is the greatest writer who ever lived—in any language.

Indeed, so important are Shakespeare’s works that only the Bible can compare with them in their influence upon our language and thought.  Shakespeare has said so many things so supremely well that we are forever finding ourselves thinking in his terms.  

Shakespeare has enriched our lives so profoundly that I cannot help but celebrate his birthday every year.  To me it is entirely normal to think of him at least once a day—if not of the man himself, then certainly lines from his plays or sonnets.  When I was still employed I used to celebrate The Birthday at the office, inviting my colleagues to the conference room to partake of cake and questioning.  “Have you done something Shakespeare-related for 10 consecutive minutes since last April 23rd?”  My colleagues considered me as mad as a hatter, but they obligingly attended—what the hell, it was better than working. The person who provided the most interesting answer to the question was awarded a prize.

Another important point raised by Shakespeare Bites Back is the following:

The Shakespeare Authorship Conspiracy Theory amounts to a gross act of
intellectual theft. It is neither more nor less than an on-going attempt to steal one
person’s reputation and achievements and give them to someone else. This adds a
profoundly moral dimension to the discussion which is usually ignored.
So let us agree with Ben Jonson that Master Shakespeare “was not of an age but for all time!”

And now, let’s party!  Have a slice of this delicious cake and a nice cup of tea to go with it. And will you please recite your favorite sonnet?  I’ll be interested to see whether your favorite is the same as mine.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  So brush up your Shakespeare! (15+ / 0-)

    Celebrate with a side of Bacon, a spit-shine on your Oxfords, and a Kit worth of reckoning, as we remember the upstart crow.

  •  Happy B'day, Bill! nt (6+ / 0-)

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:15:20 AM PDT

  •  A more contemporary example (10+ / 0-)

    of artistic genius that did not arise out of formal training is Louis Armstrong.  A great example of the effect Louis Armstrong had on people can be read here. (warning. pdf)

    The author, and future lawyer in the Brown v. Board case, said of the effect Armstrong had on him:

    He was the first genius I had ever seen. That may be a structurable part of the process that led me to the Brown case. The moment of first being,and knowing oneself to be, in the presence of genius, is a solemn moment; it is perhaps the moment of final and indelible perception of man’s utter transcendence of all else created. It is impossible to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old Southern boy’s seeing genius, for the first time,in a black. We literally never saw a black man, then, in any but a servant’s capacity.

    "labor is superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration,"... Theodore Roosevelt

    by HugoDog on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:19:39 AM PDT

    •  and lots of other jazz musicians (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa, JBL55

      In truth most great art comes from poor and lower middle class roots.

      The hacks and diletantes tend to be from amongst the privileged.

      •  not so sure if I agree with that. (5+ / 0-)

        If it is most, I think it is only because most of the people are poor and lower middle class. At the minimum, there are many more people in the lower 50% than there are in the uppere 1%. I think great art creators tend to come from all over the place in equal percentages, as does the cheese. Certainly Eliott Carter was also a great artist, and he was born into a lot of money.

        "labor is superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration,"... Theodore Roosevelt

        by HugoDog on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:45:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know about the first part ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... but the second part makes total economic sense:

        The hacks and diletantes tend to be from amongst the privileged.
        Exhibit A: the great works of verbal artistry of Grover Norquist, constructed purely from animal droppings.

        "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." ~ Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye (1970)

        by JBL55 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:58:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes to the latter, no to the former. (0+ / 0-)

        Great art can come from any class.  Wealth is no bar to genius.

        You can't be a dilettante without leisure, though, which requires some level of privilege.

        •  I know a lot of people (0+ / 0-)

          who plunk the guitar pretty badly. Working class stiffs who love it?  Sure. Great, or even good, artists? Not so much.

          "labor is superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration,"... Theodore Roosevelt

          by HugoDog on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:10:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yeah, those working class stiffs got no taste (0+ / 0-)

            but rich assholes never like anything crappy cuz they're just so cultured.

            •  nah, it's just that rich assholes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Batya the Toon

              can afford to get publicity that they don't deserve.
              My point is that there are good and bad artists all over the economic spectrum, probably more bad ones. Besides, who ever said those lovely guitar plunkers have no taste? Skill and taste are different things.

              "labor is superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration,"... Theodore Roosevelt

              by HugoDog on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:38:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Counterexamples (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Byron, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace.

        My guess is if there's a scale, it's more based on the characteristics described in Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers.  More a matter of industry & practice in combination with innate ability.

        Your artist, Blake, did not come from a wealthy family, but his talents were nutured & encouraged by his parents.

    •  Right on, Louis Armstrong! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HugoDog, JBL55

      Thanks for this, HugoDog.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:35:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just read it (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ericlewis0, Dave in Northridge, JBL55

    “Shakespeare” By Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare

    the devil's in the details -  like canals in Italy

    •  To each his own, I suppose (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Portlaw, Wee Mama, trumpeter, bogieshadow

      I know which one I'm going with.  :)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:36:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That book is a total piece of crap, like almost (6+ / 0-)

      all the "authorship question" books.  For example, most violate the "absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence" rule of thumb.  Yeah, there's no documentary evidence that WS went to school in Stratford, but then the records for the Stratford school for the years he would've been there and for many before & after are all missing.  but I guess that's because Oxford, who died before many of WS's masterpiece's were first produced, sent agents there to destroy them.  And if you believe that, I have a tinfoil hat to sell you.

               The whole thing is and always has been an exercise in snobbery -- "Nol bourgeoise bumpkin could write those plays." Guess what?  Most of the great Elizabethan and Jacobean plays were written by the offspring of small-time shop-keepers and craftsmen.  There's no evidence that Kyd, Webster, or Jonson, maybe the greatest classicist of the age but an autodictat,  went to University; and the evidence for Chapman's having done so is flimsy at best. Marlowe did, but he was the son of a shoemaker who was not nearly as affluent or as locally prominent as WS's father before John S.'s fortunes started their mysterious down-turn in WS's early or mid-adolescence.  

      "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

      by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:44:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wonder if John Shakespeare Sr. suffered from (0+ / 0-)

        depression, or a substance abuse problem, or both.  

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:11:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Most likely his black-market wool trading gig got (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Diana in NoVa

          suppressed by the central government and/or he was trying to hide his wealth to avoid its being confiscated because of his "recusancy" -- I.e , failure to go to Protestant services or to take communion at Easter in the Church of England rite.  

          (There were also Puritan "recusants." Not long before she married the Puritan sympathizer John Hall, WS's daughter Susanna was cited for recusancy; but there's no way to tell whether it reflected her father's family history of Catholic sympathies or perhaps Puritan leanings inculcated by her mother, whom many assume arranged the marriage with Hall while Will was off in London.  His whole biography is like that -- seen through a glass darkly.  On the other hand, we know as much about him as we do about most prominent people of the age.).

          "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

          by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:39:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  My favorite at the moment ... (7+ / 0-)
    My mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun.
    Coral is far more red than her lips' red.
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
    If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
    I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
    But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
    And in some perfumes is there more delight
    Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
    That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
    I grant I never saw a goddess go;
    My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
         And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
         As any she belied with false compare.
    Ask me tomorrow and it might be When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, especially if I chance to be listening to Rufus Wainwright singing it.

    What's your favorite musical arrangement of Shakespeare, or Shakespeare-inspired song?  I used to have a playlist of such things -- although to limit the length, I insisted that the song had to at the very least have one line directly quoted from the Bard, not just vaguely related (thus excluding lines like "Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity").

    •  Batya, I was thinking of this the other day and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      do you know, I could think only of the "Romeo and Juliet" theme music, which is very melancholy.

      I know there must be a ton of Shakespeare-inspired music (Verdi's "Othello" for one), but I just can't think of any tunes.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:42:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I got this :D (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, JBL55, Randtntx

        First off: the Rufus Wainwright I linked to above is from a compilation album called "When Love Speaks".  I haven't listened to anything else on it yet, but it's all settings of Shakespeare to music.

        "Sigh No More" by Mumford & Sons is a pastiche of Shakespeare lines, mostly from Much Ado About Nothing.

        The soundtrack to Were the World Mine is gorgeous, and includes more pastiche -- this time from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

        Apparently there's a rule that if you're going to be a nerdcore rapper, you have to do a Hamlet song.  I find The Great Luke Ski's "Murder Was The Play" amusing, but prefer MC Lars's "Hey There Ophelia".

        I know there's more but I can't recall the rest of it just now ...  I'll be back when I can access my playlist and share the rest of it!

      •  Alas and alack, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Batya the Toon, quarkstomper

        I was a music major when I was at the Old Globe Completely unrelated lines for a time running in parallel), so that those two ideas commingle to bring to memory the following:

        My bonnie lass, she smelleth,
        making the flowers jealouth!
        Fa la la (etc.)

        My bonnie lass dismayeth
        Me;  all that she doth say ith:
        Fa la la (etc.)

        My bonnie lass she looketh like a jewel
        And soundeth like a mule.
        My bonnie lass she walketh like a doe
        And talketh like a crow.
        Fa la la (etc.)

        My bonnie lass liketh to dance a lot;
        She’s Guinevere and I’m Sir Lancelot.1
        Fa la la (etc.)

        My bonnie lass I need not flatter;
        What she doth not have doth not matter.
        Oo la la (etc.)

        My bonnie lass would be nice,
        Yea, even at twice the price.
        Fa la la (etc.)

        //PDQ Bach

        I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

        by trumpeter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:48:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This always infuriates me. (11+ / 0-)

    The best education in Elizabethan England was for the middle class - it was a means of getting ahead whereas the wealthy had little need for a hifalutin' education.  Not to say the elite weren't educated; but there was a huge push to educate the middle class at this time.   'Basic' middle class education included Latin, Greek and a full knowledge of the classics.  Any classical references made by Shakespeare were well within the purview of a decent education of this period.  

    This was also spurred by the rise of Protestantism - the personal relationship with God required that people be able to read the Bible on their own, and not through an intermediary priest.  

    Any scholar who takes the 20th century view of education and applies it to Elizabethan England is not going to sell a book to me.  

    I have no doubt that these plays were collaborative - that is obvious from the theatre history of the age.  But Shakespeare was known as a playwright during his lifetime (as stated by the diarist).  

    If there had been any question of authorship, Ben Jonson would have rung that bell, big time.  

  •  Sonnet 60 is lovely, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, JBL55

    its sentiments are somewhat undermined by an understanding of non-Euclidean space-time. Still, it's a nice poem.

  •  One other thing - unconfirmed (5+ / 0-)

    IIRC, Will came from a family that never gave up Catholicism during the English Reformation. That would probably have contributed to the "he didn't write that" stuff. I'd give you a link but the google search turns up very few sources that are unbiased.

    I'm pained by the "he didn't write that"program as well, since one of my favorite people from my dissertation, the art collector Walter Arensberg, spent a ton of money trying to prove Francis Bacon wrote the plays. I"m still not sure why he made the effort.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tuscon, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:36:43 AM PDT

    •  Yes, I've heard that Will was a secret Catholic (4+ / 0-)

      Interesting.  He'd have had to keep really quiet about it.

      Isn't it interesting that the same poo-bahs who were running around Elizabethan England are still infesting our society today?  I refer to the Puritans, who didn't like the theatre and probably didn't like dancing, card-playing, and playing the lute either. They were always trying to shut down the theatre.

      While I was writing this, I was listening to "Queen Elizabeth's Galliard--Lute music of Elizabethan England." Robin Thodey played the lute in this one.

      I really like the mellow, pear-shaped tones of the lute.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:40:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But, as Greenblatt says, most of the plays were (3+ / 0-)

      written as though the Reformation never happened -- e.g., most of the priests and nuns are kindly, even if not always judicious (Friar Lawrence).  The most startling example is Hamlet Sr.'s description of his suffering -- he's blatantIntin leave from the Catholic purgatory, which was an enormous bête noir of the Protestants.  And WS underlines this interpretation by having Hamlet exclaim just after his father's ghost leaves, "By St. Patrick!" St. P. was the patron saint of purgatory because Jesus is supposed to have shown him the entrance to hell on an island in a lake in County Donegal.

      "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

      by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:54:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My favorite sonnet now is not the same as my (6+ / 0-)

    favorite at age 21.  Then it was:

    Being your slave, what should I do but tend
    Upon the hours and times of your desire?
    I have no precious time at all to spend
    Nor services to do, till you require...

    I was suffering from unrequited LUH-uve at the time.  Shakespeare knew exactly how it felt.

    Now my favorite is:

    That time of year thou may'st in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
    Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang...

    There's a sonnet for every mood!

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:45:29 AM PDT

  •  "Or what you will"? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, JBL55

    You call that the name of a play? Some genius that.

    But, having come so far, I'll have a slice of that cake and tea too.

    Ah, what light upon yon window shines?

  •  Whenwego, the cake is yellow, the icing of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, Portlaw, Wee Mama, whenwego

    course is chocolate.  If Will had lived further into the 17th century, I'm sure he'd have liked chocolate.

    You have your choice of Lyons Gold Afternoon tea with milk or china tea with lemon.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 11:56:54 AM PDT

  •  Favorite sonnet? Hmmm. That depends. :-) (7+ / 0-)

    This is usually the Shakespearean sonnet I think of most fondly:

    Sonnet XXIX

    When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
    I all alone beweep my outcast state,
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
    And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;
    Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
    Then there's my favorite non-Shakespearean sonnet:

    All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
    and after this one just a dozen
    to launch a little ship on love's storm-tossed seas,
    then only ten more left like rows of beans.
    How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
    and insist the iambic bongos must be played
    and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
    one for every station of the cross.
    But hang on here while we make the turn
    into the final six where all will be resolved,
    where longing and heartache will find an end,
    where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
    take off those crazy medieval tights,
    blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.

    ~ Billy Collins, from Sailing Alone Around the Room (2002).

    "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." ~ Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye (1970)

    by JBL55 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:13:41 PM PDT

    •  I like both of those, JBL55! :) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JBL55, Wee Mama, Portlaw

      When I was suffering from unrequited love and writing sonnets to the admired one, I was deeply thankful to Shakespeare for inventing the much easier Shakespearean sonnet.  The Petrarchan rhyme scheme is a real pain to work with!  

      Thank you yet again, Master Shakespeare!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:16:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Of course, there's this pairing, too: (4+ / 0-)

      Early love:

      Sonnet XVIII

      Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
      Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
      Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
      And summer's lease hath all too short a date;
      Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
      And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
      And every fair from fair sometime declines,
      By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed.
      But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
      Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
      Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
      When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
           So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
           So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

      Love tempered by loss and knowledge of future loss:
      Sonnet LXIV

      When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
      The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
      When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
      And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
      When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
      Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
      And the firm soil win of the watery main,
      Increasing store with loss, and loss with store,
      When I have seen such interchange of state,
      Or state itself confounded to decay,
      Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
      That time will come and take my love away.
             This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
             But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

      "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." ~ Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye (1970)

      by JBL55 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:17:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The first is often quoted--it's such a pleasure to (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JBL55, RenMin, Portlaw, Randtntx

        recite, isn't it?

        Interesting that you chose the second one--that very one is the favorite of my Facebook friend who, I'm glad to say, woke up this morning and instantly remembered what day this is.  He quoted the whole sonnet in his status a few hours ago.

        It's a sober, contemplative statement, mourning the all too transitory nature of love and life.

        "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

        by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 12:22:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Billy Collins is a hoot. But then I'm biased (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JBL55, Portlaw

      because I was a FR at Holy Cross when he was a SR.  I didn't know him; but, whenever I see Clarence the Sphinx in the news, it soothes my soul to know that Collins, Michael Harrington, and Phil Berrigan are(were) also fellow alumni.

      "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

      by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:00:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  OH BILLY COLLINS. *swoon* (0+ / 0-)

      Seriously, I love his stuff so much.

  •  Since we're talking sonnets (6+ / 0-)

    My favorite is Keats:

    WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be  
    Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,  
    Before high piled books, in charact'ry,  
    Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;  
    When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,          
    Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,  
    And feel that I may never live to trace  
    Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;  
    And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!  
    That I shall never look upon thee more,  
    Never have relish in the faery power  
    Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore  
      Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,  
      Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

    Great diary!

    "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible." -- Bertrand Russell

    by wide eyed lib on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:09:25 PM PDT

  •  As a jaded eldster -- not to mention the puns & (7+ / 0-)

    paradoxes in very plain, simple language -- this is my favorite (No. 138):

    When my love says that she is made of truth,
    I do believe her, though I know she lies,
    That she might think me some untutored youth,
    Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.

    Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
    Although she knows my days are past the best,
    Simply I credit her false speaking tongue.
    On both sides is thus simple truth suppressed.

    But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
    And wherefore say not that I am old?
    O love's best habit is in seeming trust,
    And age in love loves not to have years told.

        Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
         And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

    "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

    by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:21:11 PM PDT

    •  He was very witty! :D (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, Portlaw

      I enjoy those "Dark Lady" sonnets.

      He also ended one sonnet:

      "So true a fool is love that in your Will
      Though you do anything he thinks no ill."

      Someone pointed out that in Shakespeare's time "will" was also a synonym or slang term for the male genitalia.
      So the Master was unable to resist the occasional pun, it seems.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:26:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry, dude, it was definitely Roger Bacon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa


    It's probably telling that nobody else wanted authorship credit for Titus Andronicus.

    •  LOL! Roger was a coupla centuries too early (0+ / 0-)

      but he and Leonardo would have got on well.  They could have compared engineering drawings done by Cesare Borgia.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:27:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But that's the trick, you see (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa

        All Shakespeare did was discover the unpublished works by Bacon and plagarise them. Of course, Bacon was also a plagarist--just look at him ripping off Chaucer with Troilus and Cressida. And a time-traveler as well; it was the only way Bacon could both write the Histories and rip off Chaucer.

        Disclaimer: This is total snark coming from having too many people in the family with advanced degrees in English.

    •  Whenever I hear people bemoaning the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa, Randtntx

      violence and blood in contemporary movies, I reflect that T.A. was apparently quite the hit.  "Pulp Fiction" is "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" in comparison.  Harold Bloom says he thinks it was supposed to be Elizabethan camp, a send-up of Marlowe.  I wouldn't be surprised that WS intended it as a send-up of Marlowe (and/or maybe Kyd) but knew that most of his audience would take it straight and love it.  

      "If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed." -- M. Twain

      by Oliver St John Gogarty on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:52:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  To quote (5+ / 0-)

    a rather less well known writer:

    "Shakespeare's nothing special.  I went to see Hamlet, and it weren't nothing more than a bunch of famous quote all strung together!"

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:33:43 PM PDT

  •  Altogether, an unconvincing treatment... (0+ / 0-)

    ...of an old debate.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:39:47 PM PDT

  •  There was some old family lore (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Portlaw

    That somewhere up our family tree was Francis Bacon; so we were rather inclined to like that version of who the author "really was".  Turns out, though, that we probably bear no relationship to the Bacons, so now I'm fine if you want to credit Will S. ;)

    "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

    by Catte Nappe on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 02:00:05 PM PDT

  •  Well said!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Portlaw

    Thank you!!!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 02:17:45 PM PDT

  •  This is ridiculous! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, whenwego, Portlaw

    Everyone knows that "Shakespeare's" works were really written by Stephen King utilizing the time machine designed by H.G. Wells.

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 02:18:38 PM PDT

  •  shakespeare the radical (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Brecht

    my professor in grad school at Rutgers, Charles Fitter, argues that shakespeare was clearly a very radical lefty guy.  he says that we usually view shakespeare's works from the perspective of the nobles and royalty, when it is better understood when seen from the poor population who were his true audience.

    the genius of shakespeare is that he could write a play and have it performed for the angry mob, who would see it one way, and the royal snob, who would see it comepletely differently.  

    an example is henry v.  before the climactic battle, king henry disguises himself as a regular soldier and goes amongst the men.  he gets into a discussion with two soldiers, who say that what henry (they do not recognize their king) is having them fight for better be worth it.  the disguised king says that it doesn't matter if it's worth it or not, if the king says fight that's all that matters (echoes of "if the president does it, it's not illegal").

    it is a major scene, the characters almost fight, and indeed, even after the battle there is still the threat that they might fight over it.

    now, to those who BELIEVED that what a king says is right just because a king said it, that scene would be played one way.  but to those who were constantly under threat of conscription for endless wars, who suffered famine almost regularly, who knew that as soldiers they were literally worth more to their lords dead than alive, there's NO WAY they would have read that as anything but arrogant and evil.

    if you think of how these plays would be performed in front of the angry, seconds-away-from-rioting crowd, to me it's pretty clear that he was not a fan of the royalty.

    shakespeare walked a tight line, and that is one element of his genius that is also missed.  i think he's also a bit like colbert before the press dinner: if the rulers knew what he was really saying, i don't think they'd be so quick to claim him.

    "I'm awfully bitter these days because my parents were slaves..." --Nina Simone

    by dissidentpoet on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 04:46:47 PM PDT

    •  I like the way you think, dissidentpoet! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      This is a compelling argument, IMHO.  And I especially like this:

      the angry mob, who would see it one way, and the royal snob, who would see it comepletely differently.  
      "The angry mob and the royal snob"--how perfectly that sums it up!

      Thanks for stopping by. Have a piece of cake, there's still a lot left.  It's good, too.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 05:05:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, Batya the Toon, Brecht

        it was a great class.  made me think a lot.

        another example is romeo & juliet.  when juliet's dad is planning her marriage to paris, he calls for several chefs and this huge amount of food, that he nonchalantly lists.  seen from today, no big deal.  to a royal, it just sounds like a good father or lord.

        but romeo and juliet was first performed right after a fierce famine.  anyone just calmly calling for all that food, most of which would go to waste, is NEVER going to be seen as anything but a villain to a hungry and under-paid crowd.  seriously, if you see that scene from the viewpoint of near-starving and recently starving people, it changes the rest of the play.

        plus, romeo's betrayal of the apothecary is terrible.  romeo goes to the apothecary (like a pharmacist) to get the poison.  now, it is illegal PUNISHABLE BY DEATH for the apothecary to give romeo this poison.  however, romeo, in a monologue, laughs and says that he will use the apothecary's poverty & hunger to get what he wants. he mocks and ridicules him, and eventually asks if he'd rather be noble and starve or break the law and eat.  the apothecary gives him the poison.

        then, when romeo is found dead, he has a note explaining where he got the poison.  which means he condemns the apothecary to death.  the only reason is because he feels that the apothecary breaking the law means he should die, even though he is the one who got him to break the law, and he only did it because he was starving.

        "I'm awfully bitter these days because my parents were slaves..." --Nina Simone

        by dissidentpoet on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 05:21:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not A Sonnet, But... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Brecht

    I once wrote a pastiche of Feste's song in Twelfth Night.  I had a character in a comic I drew at the time who would now and then sing a verse of it:

    I'll sing for you a sorrowful song,
    Heigh-ho, the wind and the rain
    It isn't in tune, and it's overly long
    And the rain it raineth every day.

    I gave my love a rose of red,
    Heigh-ho, the wind and the rain
    My love gave to me a cold in the head;
    And the rain it raineth every day.

    I gave my love a band of gold;
    Heigh-ho, the wind and the rain
    The ring turned to brass; now it's covered with mold;
    And the rain it raineth every day.

    I gave my love a silver chain
    Heigh-ho, the wind and the rain
    The present was et by my true love's great dane
    And the rain it raineth every day.

    I gave my love a diamond ring;
    Heigh-ho, the wind and the rain
    She said, "Yes, I love you, but not when you sing!"
    And the rain it raineth every day.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 05:11:41 PM PDT

  •  Lovely diary! (0+ / 0-)

    I've only recently -- within the last two weeks, actually -- become enthralled by Shakespeare, but I'm reading and watching filmed versions of plays as fast as I can. I loved the Ralph Fiennes version of Coriolanus. Just last night I saw, for the first time in my life, the Laurence Olivier version of Henry V.

    Happy belated Bard's birthday!

    Please visit:

    by Noisy Democrat on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 06:34:59 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site