Take 4 experts and 12 actors from the leading Dutch acting company, Toneel Groep AMsterdam. Add an alarm button to press if you want to interject. Tie it together with a funny master of ceremonies and voila! The Rabotheater was full and the promise of apples and beer onstage at the end kept us slavering.
Here are some hasty notes i made:
Shakespeare was een eenvoudige vent. Shakespeare was a simple guy. He dramatised our lives.
Ulysses speech about degree when talking about the cosmology of the Elizabethans.
Throw in some Richard 2nd laying on the ground and talking of Kings.
The Copernican versus the Ptolymean world views. Or does the sun revolve around the earth? Or the earth the sun?
The Church dictated the ancient view and scientific minds accepted in private the new. Bruno, Descartes, Huygens and Newton all represented the new.
Shakespeare lived in interesting times. The old world order was changing on all levels. Humoral psychology moved towards scientific investigation. Church and the divine right of Kings was being challenged by secular learning aided by the printing press and the growth of business and exploration. Money talks and influences power bases.
Niets is helemaal zeker. Zelfs dat niet.
Nothing is for certain. Not even that.
The City theatre or Schouwburg in Amsterdam dates from 1638. Before this rederijkers or rhetoricians met in an Academy of letters on the Keizersgracht from 1617-1637. Prior to this the same rederijkers had practiced their art since the late 15thC; wherever they could, in public space or on temporary podia.
The point is they were out there, and thinking and living and breathing on the pathos, weighing light on the ethos, if needs be to turn the logos, and spin the argument either and or both ways.
What’s being worshipped by rhetoricians? The swaying of hearts and minds through words. What greater example than Mark Antony’s oration to the crowd after Caesar’s assassination.
Rhetoric then is one aspect of early modern performance we cannot ignore. Rhetoric consists of
Pathos works on the emotions of the crowds
Ethos works on their sense of right and wrong
Logos works on the words and how we use them.
Nowadays rhetoric is still in full swing. We use it constantly in our TV shows and Films. Also politicians and religious institutions use it to justify their temporal power or heavenly sway.
here’s a pdf of rhetorical devices commonly used.
Identity viewed through the lenses of Benedick and Beatrice, Viola and Olivia.
Keats Negative capability. Harold Bloom’s thesis that Shakespeare caused the individual was mentioned too.
The mirroring of microcosm (person) and macrocosm (society, universe) too.
Shakespeare isn’t in his works, he has a capacity for vanishing.
All in all a good night out at the theatre worshipping the Bard. Wish you were here continues with nights on Ibsen, Bergman and Chekhov.
If you want to see hear and learn more about SHakespeare you could always attend one of our Shakespeare Karaoke evenings at the Badhuis theater. The difference being the audience gets to play too.
“That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang…”
The first lines of Sonnet 73 remind me that autumn is upon us, and my long summer stateside sojourn has come to an end. This last/past week in New York City, the Bard has been ever present in my thoughts by way of several literary and dramatic events that I was fortunate enough to attend.
On Saturday evening, the East Village Lit Crawl brought me to the stylish dungeon-like cellar of the Von Bar on Bleecker Street for three short readings and three long toasts under the title Literature and Libations. One of the three authors was John Reed, a New York novelist with whom I was not acquainted. His latest book, published in 2008, is “All the World’s a Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare.”
Written in dramatic form, the story is constructed of lines drawn from Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, but rearranged to tell a totally new tale. Prince Hamlet goes to war for Juliet, daughter of King Lear. Upon his triumphant return home he discovers his mother has murdered his father and married Macbeth. Enter Iago and General Romeo… Some forty years after Tom Stoppard shifted focus to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, something also done in comic form by W.S. Gilbert in 1874, such theatrical grave-digging has become commonplace. (How did I miss the 2009 vampire film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead, featuring several reincarnations throughout history?)
However, on this occasion Read introduced the audience to newer material. In the last few years, inspired by the research for his book, he’s been writing a Sequence of Sonnets, a total of 60 so far. When he began, he primarily used the English sonnet structure as practiced by WS. But of late Reed has been exploring the earlier Italian forms. His Lit Crawl reading included tricky #20 (John John), one which employed the Elizabethan model:
John John automaton, born to never,
never learn. John John automaton, born
to never never learn. Born to ever
ever urn. Born to burn and born to scorn.
John John automaton, got nothing,
nothing, nothing done. John John automat,
nothing winning, always spinning spinning
spinning. John-a-folds his wrinkles flat.
John John automatic. Panic panic
panic panic. Needs to needs to needs to naught.
Needs machined, by house mechanic.
John-O-John, ought-to-John on auto ought.
Not John-o-ton. John John, not John-o-ton.
John John, not John-o-ton. John John, not John
John Reed’s entire (and open-ended, so one can assume he is not yet finished) Sequence of Sonnets can be found on his website: http://www.johnreed.org/
Three nights later I traveled uptown to Barnes & Noble on 82nd Street to hear another author I’d not heard of. Jaime Manrique is an award-winning gay Columbian novelist, poet and journalist who now lives in New York City. He writes in both Spanish and English and is most well-known for his memoir “Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me.” His newest book is a historical novel based on the early life of Miguel de Cervantes. I knew Cervantes and Shakespeare were contemporaries, but didn’t realize they died within ten days of each other (in part why World Book Day is celebrated on 23 April.)
“Cervantes Street” draws heavily upon “Don Quixote,” considered the first modern novel in Western literature. And during his talk, Manrique cited WS as another important source of inspiration. In a note to the reader, he references “an homage to Shakespeare.” Yet to read it, I can’t be more specific. I will say this: on the way home I opened my personally signed copy on the subway and became so enthralled that I almost missed my stop.
For more: http://www.akashicbooks.com/cervantesstreet.htm
“If I wanted to be master of my own destiny, and choose my path to manhood, my only two options were fame as a poet or glory as a soldier. To become the most famous poet and warrior of my time- now that was a worthy goal.” (from “Cervantes Street” by Jaime Manrique)
The following night, full-blooded poetry combined with bloodthirsty warriors to set the stage for an Encore presentation at the Soho Playhouse. “Pulp Shakespeare” is a wickedly clever mash-up, posing the question: What if the Bard had written Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 cult classic Pulp Fiction?
Director Jordan Monsell founded Her Majesty’s Most Secret Players in Los Angeles in 2011 “to bring a new slant on Shakespeare.” With their first outing they opted for a no holds barred, go for broke approach that won them Best of Fringe awards in both LA and, a year later, in NYC. On many levels, the successful pairing of WS with QT might be obvious. Much has been written about parallels between the two, and in interviews Tarantino has stated, tongue firmly in cheek, “I’ve always had a thought maybe that I might have been Shakespeare in another life.”
Both writers share a love of language/dialogue, often by using two-character scenes, or self-revealing monologues. Both share a taste for raw sexual tension and explicit violence. When push comes to shove, does it matter if a shotgun or a crossbow is aimed at a man’s groin? Much of the contemporary humor is perfectly suited to Elizabethan jests and jibes, like references to Amsterdam coffeeshops or the danger inherent in foot-rubs.
Perhaps needless to say, the better you know the film, the more you’ll enjoy the play. Aye, there’s the rub. I don’t remember seeing the film after its initial release, so I missed a lot that had diehard fans giggling with unbridled glee. Parody, even well-writ and expertly played, can grow wearisome over ninety minutes. But I’ve always held a fondness for Jacobean revenge tragedy, which “Pulp Shakespeare” most resembles. Interestingly, the play’s original title when first produced in 2009 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival (yes, Minnesota!) was “Bard Fiction.” It’s safe to assume Jordan Monsell’s deft direction and reshaping (he now shares a writing credit) improved more than the title.
Posted by David Swatling
New York City, 21 Septemeber 2012
…It all began with the internet. Just to be clear fb friends are people you interact with online and have never met in person.
A fb friend introduced me to another fb friend of hers. He joined my fb group page. There are several such in the group and I know, as far as one can know anything, that if we meet we will click. Shared interest in Shakespeare is enough but there’s more. There’s a difference towards the kooky the quirky the little bit out of the ordinary.
The first time you meet a fb friend in person you are familiar with much about their ideas and opinions from their timelines and comments. You accept or reject said such like a demi-god wantonly killing flies. But face to face is more than that. The social veneer, present or absent, will out.
D-day, june 6th, platform 14a Centraal Station, Amsterdam the TGV (trein grand vitesse) from Paris arrives. Out back of the station my partner in theatrical crime Michael M. waits in his vehicle. The package is in the pocket I phone to him. Mike loves silliness and has the attention span of oh look aaah, as the bishop said to the…
The package is actor Colin David Reese. The first person I see is a dutch actress who had cancelled doing his forthcoming workshop due to paid work, picking up some American friends. Then behind her surprised effusions I see a man in black with matching floppy hat bearing down on us. My actor. His first words after introductions assure me we’re on the right footing, can I smoke in the station or is there a fine?
Outside we pile him and his baggage into Mike’s car and head off to his bnb and then to the Badhuistheater, a former bath house. The evening is picture perfect Amsterdam summer as it’s meant to be. Thursday and friday Colin introduced about 9 actors to his method of approaching verse and prose. His technique being based on the cue scripts used by Jacobethan actors.
Sadly for this part of the exegesis I too had paid work at the Binger Filmlab under tutelage of Mark Travis. Meaning I pertinently will avoid any discussion of his method until I do it myself. Here for the curious is an outline:
The workshop consists of 4 sessions over two days:
Two morning sessions of three hours and two afternoon sessions of four hours.
A maximum of 12 participants.
Each participant is requested to half prepare a verse monologue, NOT to learn it by heart. Soft shoes and track suits for the men and practice skirts for the women.
Participants are requested to bring a “Complete Works” and a note book and pencil.
• Physical warm up (Lecoq techniques)
Aimed at each participant finding his or her weak and strong points in terms of tension; how tension is blocking corporal expression and how to release the morphology from inherent psychological detrimental memories.
• Breathing exercises.
Designed to develop the participant’s ability to augment their capacity and extension.
• First contact with the text.
Each participant reads their semi prepared monologue.
• Movement analysis.
Working with the “pointe fixe” and equilibrium and disequilibrium.
How physicality affects characterisation. How to analyse movement, both one’s own and that of other people.
• Linking movement to breathing.
How breathing affects movement and vice versa.
• Verse analysis.
Explanation of Iambic pentameter and how Shakespeare exploits and deforms its structure, thus giving indications to the actor concerning interpretation and characterisation. Examples are taken from different plays, showing how the use of mid-line endings, end-stops, short lines (less than 5 feet), assonance, alliteration, and repetition are all used by the author to guide the actor, helping with character creation.
• Each participant will be asked to study their chosen monologue with regards to the verse analysis.
• Warm up.
Guided, whilst giving each participant a chance to practice their own exercises.
Voice warm up and placement exercises.
Diction and articulation exercises.
• Presentation of monologues showing results from overnight work.
Criticism and direction from Mr. Reese inviting comments from the other participants.
• Continuation of presentation of monologues.
Taking a short section from each monologue – committing it to memory, adding movement and breathing pattern to take it to a performance level.
• Sight reading Shakespeare. Using the verse techniques acquired, each participant will sight read an unfamiliar monologue or scene selected by Mr. Reese.
Judging by the reactions of the workshop participants his workshop cannot be highly recommended enough. And indeed as we search the web for cue scripts we find the Folger has developed a similar technique as have others. Certainly he will be back for those of us who missed out on it this time around.
So that’s what I didn’t experience. Shakespeare Unbound I did. And boy was I excited beforehand. An audience with John Heminges. ‘At last at last’ are his first words as he rushes onstage into to his dimly lit Jacobean study. The actor I met has been replaced by an old Elizabethan man who worked with SHakespeare and in his hands is a copy of the First Folio, hot from the presses. (speaking of which Heminges copy is nowhere extant right)?
Heminges realises he’s not alone and addresses his audience as the ghosts of the future. And whether they still know of Will? He questions them about their knowledge is of the plays or the poems. And whether they know any titles. I threw in Pericles knowing it didn’t make the FOlio and Heminges answered, while the actor rebalanced.
Shakespeare unbound is a collection of anecdotes from Sh’s life, from the travelling group that lost young Knell the impetuous actor in Oxford and picked up young ingenue Will Shakspere whilst travelling through Stratford in the mid 1580′s to the burning of the Globe in 1613. Interspersed with this necessarily shortened biography are readings from the Folio that illustrate some particular character trait of Heminge’s remembered Will.
As such we are treated to a veteran actor smoothly shifting gears from piece to piece. His method of running with the impulses of the verse gives plenty of scope for hearing the text like new. His physical skill in creating character is seamless and flawed. The subject matter is such that the I of the story is always being questioned. Sometimes Heminges was Reese, and Will through the text whatever he wanted Colin David Reese to want him to be. Or not to be. But that’s another question.
The next day Mike and I released the package to continue his journeys to chateaux and down under. Earlier that saturday afternoon I finally had a chance to brunch at Renzo’s with Colin to myself, and of course our knowledge of Will. Later at my apartment he glanced at my bookshelves and noted the same books as in his collection. And like him our prized possessions are our First Folio facsimiles that have been read and read again.
So our first fb shakespeare collaboration commenced and interluded, for a time will come when we meet again. Until then much thanks, and if you ever see this show Shakespeare Unbound in a theatre near you don’t hesitate to buy a ticket. The workshop likewise is perfect for Universities and colleges and drama schools. Or do what we did and use fb to do it.
Btw Colin what was that last quote you used?
…all over the place and unfocused in between being focused and accomplishing the necessaries. Anarchy is big on my personal radar. Politically i’ve never defined myself, except as my behavior showed my politics. I am as fascist in my thinking as I am hippy. This was sometime a paradox, but if you ever witness’d two snarling scrapping hippies, my friend look to it! I have then a problem with authority. My own included.
Contrary to what you might think, my feelings may be part judge in this, that i am but mad north north west, when the wind blows southerly, i know a hawk from a hand shaw. Saw. Heron.
There is of course nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. An ironic dualism taunting its weaker partner into admitting its non-existence.
Remember I am but weak on sundays and in a rotting carcass maggots fill me to the brim. Haste make haste! Slow down, slow, slow down and speed up in a silly manner, flying your banner and waving it round and round.
Words, words, words. How pregnant sometimes his replies are? Though this be madness, yet there is method innit? Fortune plays a big part and a little part in Hamlet. I’d never noticed before how fortune gets used (yes she’s a slag. Used is right)! first by Hamlet with R+G in their greeting each other dialogue. If it live in your memory begin at this line. Let me see, let me see…
Good lads how do you both?
Ros: As the indifferent children of the earth.
Guil: Happy in that we are not over happy; on fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
Ham: Nor the soles of her shoe?
Ros: Neither, my lord.
Ham: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favors?
Guil: Faith her privates we.
Ham: in the secret parts of fortune? O most true she is a strumpet.
None my lord but that the world’s grown honest.
Then is doomsday near.
But your news is not true.
Let me question more in particular.
What have you my good friends deserved at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
And again not much further along, Fortune as a strumpet returns. Is this why Hamlet gets the player to do this speech? Does he feel like the painted tyrant, poised and unable to move? Unable to find his vengeance at mincing limbs?
Out out thou strumpet fortune!
he cries and would break all her spokes and fellies from her wheel.
(let’s get ready to play, the wheel of fortune. Dumb show as Game show. Here’s the wonderful prizes. Get it yet Claudius)?
And on to the mobled Queen. That’s good, mobled Queen is good. Is this Gertrude’s part of the show? The realization of what battening on moors does to a person?
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,
Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have pronounced
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,
The instant burst of clamor that she made,
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,
And passion in the gods.
Gods or ghosts? Hamlet’s central problem? What a piece of work is a man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty and yet to me what is this?
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star.
Is this a social natural split or what? Clothed in nature’s livery? Or dressed by chance of birth? Hamlet the prince cannot fall into such disfavor being a prince that he should fall from his position in the firmament. Old Hamlet is trailing the Court like a ghostly comet. Remember me, old mole! More sightings than any episode of ghost hunters.
Young Hamlet examines his options and obligations and finds himself wanting in the doing power. Leading him to think on that which is to come but is most feared. Action. Anarchy. No other authority than himself. He had examples enough in common Renaissance mythology exhorting him to action. Yet like a Pyrrhus he takes a weak victory.
The player shows him how. Rosencrantz and Guildernstern awaken his slumbering wrath. Claudius and Gertrude hang around unsure as to who knows what. Unseen between the scenes, furtively copulating now legalised guilt sex behind the arrasses. Polonius runs and runs and plots his plots behind the plot. Ophelia rejected lies abed a sewing. Short sharp pricks.
Like a true liberal humanist, he puts on a play for the man that murdered his father. Hoping his terrors will implode or explode him as he watches forcing and publicly confessing his nefarious deeds. His mother stricken with self-loathing claims Hamlet rightful heir to the throne. Hamlet forgives them and they all live in a slightly less rotten Denmark.
Of course not. The consequences are tragically ineffectual and yet further the plot and minor characters mirror that plot. Polonius takes one for Claudius and the ghost. R+G get their come-uppance in England. (They don’t like it uppance, sir)! Ophelia defines true madness. Hamlet kills Claudius and Laertes, madrigals with Horatio thoughts on the demise of sparrows.
But this is yet to come. If it be now.
Claudius is miffed to put it mildly and Hamlet is convinced that this delusion that he has seen is not a delusion and madness is just a state of mind, so there. As by lot god’s wot, which is a lot. And so it came to pass. Look where my abridgment comes.
‘I must each day say o’er the same’
Touch lightly on each subject (Page) and drive through to the point (Stage).
Real Shakespeare is replicated human response to the rhythms inherent in the verse he composed out of linguistic necessity. (that’s as far as I want to go with Sh intentions thus avoiding Intentional Fallacy)! The Sonnets virtuosity stands a side-by-side test with any other Elizabethan scribbler, Noble or not, in terms of form and content.
Focus for a minute on the fact that the author was a poet in search of a patron like so many of his contemporary poetasters. Court patronage demanded a taste of your wares. A good narrative poem or two about a gory date-rape starring 2 popularly known mythological figures, or a rape by a lust-filled King might get you some credit and good standing as a poet.
This sonnet series I feel was a long-term project and perhaps undertaken whimsically. What the Italians knew as serio ludere serious playing. Certainly he created and worked on them from 1593 – 1608. (as early as 1588 if you follow Andrew Gurr with 145’s Hate-away pun).
We know nothing of how they were composed or delivered , except for two variants of 144 and 138 being printed in ‘The Passionate Pilgrim’ in 1599. Further that same year Francis Meres mentions Shakespeare’s sonnets to his private friends in Palladis Tamia.
We know not how they eventually transferred to the hands of Thomas Thorpe, who ‘staied’ them to be printed and looked to earn some money off them as he had numerous other collections. His nickname was Odd Thorpe and indeed his dedication to the sonnets is odd.
They were published in May, 1609. One batch was printed on the press of George Eld, two of whose compositors compiled the Quarto, from a copy, foul or fair, we cannot know which. They were titled, unusually for comparable series, with the author’s name and the subject at hand: Shake-speare’s Sonnets. Pericles came from the same press the same year.
Two printer/booksellers split the batch, William Aspley and William Wright, who we assume sold out. (Edward Alleyn made a note of paying a shilling for his copy). Thirteen copies are extant and jealously guarded, in libraries public and private,. The copies show few variations and in 1944 one scholar Hyder Rollins collated them.
I actually want to start with the idea that this quarto of 154 Sonnets and A Lover’s Complaint (I believe they belong together) was written by Anonymous.
The three-fold consequence of this is that:
1. the author’s biography,
2. the identities of the Fair Young Man and the Dark Lady, and who wrote the Dedication,
3. and most importantly, the Conspiracy theorists
are eliminated from requiring explication in one fell swoop.
Sexually their author was either hetero, homo, or bi. The persona is any one, or all three, the sonnets prove nothing of the author’s sexuality. Sexual he was, for he had offspring. Diseased , he may also have ended.
The other pronouns this persona invokes are aimed at establishing the persona’s state when in love. Fiction is too good for them, reality too prosaic. They exist, but only in the persona’s mind, and remember you are he. In fact the persona is really just blotches of ink from a printer’s press, twice perhaps thrice removed from their author.
The author will figure personally only as the agent necessary to creating the persona we judge or identify with as readers. So the author is the ‘I’ of the sonnets, and you are he, by reason of your eyes reading his poems. We are after poesy here not conspiracy.
Similarities of the arguments exist in the Sonnet tradition.
Follow the path of white magicians and trace it to Florio and Bruno.
Show the rage of sonnet series ended with a summing up threnody.
Explore Sonnet delivery as far as we know it.
We know EM Readers liked to interact with their texts. They would garner sententiae and exempla for their common-place books. So the author knew his work would be read and said.
I’m a reader not a writer. The author writes like Michelangelo sculpted and painted, or Mozart played piano (anachronism noted), and how Mike Tyson punched!
The sonnet is a true marriage of mind and soul distributed over form and content.
Each ideal Elizabethan sonnet is
a string of words, ideas, and sounds,
expressing an argument in 14 lines,
confined to a maximum of 154 syllables and a minimum of 140 syllables,
riming abab cdcd efef gg. (As usual there are exceptions).
Like the four steps of a combustion engine
Suck, Quatrain 1 a question or statement is posed.
(likes to jump right in, like the first lines of his plays)
squeeze, Quatrain 2 a riposte or development
bang, Quatrain 3 jumps to a higher or deeper level
blow. C final couplet closes or opens the argument: salt sweet bitter sour.
The grand conceit is that the individual sonnet reflects as a mirror for the sonnet series. Simultaneously, it is one sonnet alone and by synecdoche, all the sonnets in one.
Rhetorical analysis and use of orthography are demonstrably applied throughout the series.
Assonance and alliteration support the tone and atmosphere of each sonnet. Argument moves from cerebral conceit to smutty wit in dancing figures, climbing tropes and devious schemes. The balance of metre and rime is worked to the bone and fleshed out as quickly.
Masculine and feminine are both liberally, and almost hermaphroditically, intermixed in form and content. Time is fought and conquered (Q146) and given his due. Nature turns five hundred courses of the sun (Q59) and seasons wax, seasons wane charting the body politic.
Their ordering is just fine. It is consistent with a poet developing an argument from sonnet 1 to sonnet a 154 with recurring themes increasing in intensity until the ties, which first bound them so fast to pain and sorrow, are broken, in a resolutely major, (Q126) then minor fashion (152). Both light plot and dark sub-plot intertwine on an inner stage, only imagination can compass.
The final couplet of the sequence (so to speak) is two almost identical sonnets on Cupid (153 + 154) capping the whole. In fact you can almost apply a 5-Act structure in terms of narrative though the story is disappointingly thin on spiffy action and actual events , but big on the few characters confessing private sins and tumultuous hidden passions.
The Young man is the typical sonneteer’s beloved but with a twist in character. He is portrayed as wanton, frivolous and cruel, exhibiting selfish behaviour and with a low intellect, at least judging him by his friends. The Mistress is all this, but smarter and foxier than the young man could ever be, and we know she beds him as well, as Will.
A man loves a young man, who steals the man’s mistress. The young man dallies then bores with the mistress, the man forgives the young man, who promptly employs another poet to sing his praises.
The man again forgives the young man and realizes the young man in reality (funny that) is hardly any of the virtuous things he’s been calling him, so the man considerately and ceremoniously dumps him.
Meanwhile the mistress continues to make the man’s life a living hell. He’s forgiven her too. Eventually the man realizes his submission to his lover is sick and maddening, so he scornfully and unceremoniously dumps her.
This action was new to sonnet personas. One idealized and forgave one’s beloved for all unattainable eternity. But then it was usually just one beloved. So perhaps this thin gruel of a story is smoke and mirrors hiding the feast of its true purpose.
This series of 154 sonnets can be diagrammatically represented as a circle. An opus circulatorium representing the alchemical struggle of the soul towards God. His verse incorporating the universe within, as Hermes 3x stated: so above, so below.
Their numerology is quixotic and amusingly spaced, if you consider the series as a whole. It fits the Hermes 3x and Pythagorean traditions. The Natural philosophy clubs of London Antwerp Amsterdam etc had their literary and magical counterparts. In any case the precedent is set for clubs like Oxford’s Fisherman’s Folly and Raleigh’s school of night, the friday nights at the Mermaid Tavern.
Fair, kind and true is all their argument.
Let’s review the narrative’s character list
The young man is the beloved who inspires the series is quickly dropped as an over-arching quest (17) in favour of expressing immortality through verse. The poet’s own immortality more than any other character is the end result. These sonnets are more personal than Montaigne, and Less public than Burton.
One fool for love, = the poet Q30
Two loves, = the poet and the young man Q26
Three is a love-triangle, = the poet, the young man and the mistress. Q144
Four Humours and four elements Q44 + 45
Five Wits and Five Senses. Q140
Wit + Will Q135 + 136
Seven sins and virtues.
8 notes in one scale.
10 times thyself.
Perfection, the godhead.
The eye is the primary sense: for judging beauty.
The heart judges truth and goodness.
The mouth and nose assist in love’s pleas to the beloved .
The ears receive the beloved’s answer, whether sweet or sour.
The touch is the road to perdition or salvation.
CONCLUSION: This inside out look at the Sonnets of Shakespeare concentrates more on the medium than the message. It deals with the words, ideas and sounds that are in the series and imposes nothing more than is necessary for understanding and successfully reciting them. The medium is YOU, your mouth, lips, tongue and breath, his witty twists and bitter turns of invention yours for as long as you speak ‘em.
Translating Shakespeare spans centuries and many languages. Late in the 20thC it has become the turn of Early Modern English to be made into Modern English. Many are against this practice. I mean would we do the same for Middleton or Marlowe? Then neither of those has the place in the curricula of modern education that Sh does. And this seems to be the reason why these modern english translations are happening.
It is with pleasure then that I accepted the offer of No Sweat Shakespeare to do this guest post. Enjoy and if you have comments please post them on the FB group page.
Academics interested in the works of Shakespeare often ask the question: ‘Is it necessary to translate Shakespeare’s texts into “modern” English?’ Some take the view that it is but most argue against it.
Although my website, NoSweatShakespeare.com is a site that focuses on translating Shakespeare into modern English and although I have spent a great deal of time translating Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, I actually agree with those who say it’s unnecessary. Unnecessary as it is, though, it is harmless and can be useful.
The well known linguistician, David Crystal, professor of linguistics at Bangor University in Wales, argues eloquently against translation. His main point is that Shakespeare’s texts already are in Early Modern English, with the language already well developed in the form that we use today.
He is right, of course, and he doesn’t just make that point: he goes on to demonstrate it with facts and shows that ninety percent of Shakespeare’s words, for example, are modern English words still in use.
Other arguments against translation are that it’s a kind of dumbing down that would destroy, for the readers of translations, the challenge that Shakespeare’s texts offers; that the rhythms of Shakespeare’s poetry are ruined in translation, and that the multiple meanings produced by his poetry disappear.
All of this is undoubtedly true. However, one has to ask the question why it is that modern English translations are so popular among teachers and students, to the point where there is fierce competition among those who produce them for the growing market. Student forums on the internet abound with questions about where one can get a translation of a particular line of text or Shakespeare quote, or a scene in one of Shakespeare’s plays.
Many years ago, as an English teacher, I took a special interest in ways of introducing and teaching Shakespeare texts to children and young people. During the last quarter of a century a great deal of work has been done on that and now, with a good teacher, a student can have a wonderful Shakespeare experience in the classroom.
In those days, when I was exploring the subject, I used various methods to introduce Shakespeare in the classroom but I felt that there must be something I could do to hand the play over to the students before the actual study of the text began – to allow them to take possession of it and then want to explore the actual text.
I came up with the idea of creating a novelised version of Macbeth. It would be full of action, suspense, violence – a great story with ‘real’ characters with whom readers would identify. They would be able to read it independently of the teacher. Or the teacher could read it with them.
I began work on it. I found, exactly like David Crystal, that the language was almost exactly the English that we use today. But set out as a play, it was alien to student taste.
We should always remember that for Elizabethan writers the text was unimportant: the important thing was the performance. In fact, it was the only thing. Members of the public of the time never read a text – even the actors never read a full text.
In our time we study the text as a piece of literature and often a student will study the text and never see a performance. So the student is looking at the play in a way never dreamt of by its author, which is bound to be problematic in many ways.
Moreover, students rarely go away and read play scripts on their own so they are unfamiliar with that form. A play script is, after all, a most alienating thing. My aim was to create a step between the student and the Shakespeare text, using a form familiar to, and loved by, her, which would not only give her a complete view of the play – its story, its themes and its characters, but also of the language.
I therefore resolved to write something that felt like a novel in the reading but leave the language as intact as possible. However, there are some archaic words, some words whose meaning has changed completely, and some constructions, because of the density of the poetry, that are difficult to unravel.
So my approach was to use Shakespeare’s language and tweak it a bit to make it read fluidly, with the student not having to interrupt the read to try and understand something. She doesn’t have to stop reading a well-written novel to try and work something out so my top priority was to imitate that fluidity. That meant that it had to sound ‘modern’ to the reader’s ear and the result was that Shakespeare’s rhythms were lost for the most part.
It also meant that much of the depth created by the poetry had to go – multiple meanings had to be sacrificed to the needs of an unambiguous, straight read.
However, Shakespeare’s language is still there, almost intact, in the translation. I also used bits of descriptive dialogue to create the kind of authorial narrative that novelists create, giving the text a seamless forward thrust. And in every other way I used the novelist’s methods, retaining Shakespeare’s language wherever possible.
When I began using a modern English translation of Shakespeare in the classroom I found a response that went even beyond my hopes. Children read the text and then were able to talk about the plot, the ideas and the characters, before even catching a glimpse of the Shakespeare text. Their enthusiasm for the play was very satisfying as a teacher. The subsequent engagement with the text was then a teacher’s dream.
And, so, while agreeing with those critics of Shakespeare translations, in practice they can be very useful: the kind of translation I’ve referred to is a powerful item in the English teacher’s toolbox.
The use of the tool does not mean that the student avoids the Shakespeare text. That would, of course, depend on the teacher but if a teacher does not proceed to the text they, not, the translated text, is at fault.
By Warren King, NoSweatShakespeare
Revenge, Rape and Murder in Titus Andronicus: How many and why they happen?
1. MURDER. Alarbus (son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths) limbs lopped off and entrails removed and burned by the remaining 4 sons of Titus. Happens offstage.
2. MURDER. Mutius (son of Titus) stabbed by his father for stopping him going after Bassianus and Lavinia.
3. MURDER. Bassianus (brother to Emperor Saturninus and newly wed with Lavinia) stabbed and thrown into a pit by Demetrius and Chiron (sons of Tamora) for threatening to expose Aaron’s affair with Tamora.
Aaron then sets up Martius and Quintus (sons of Titus) for the murder of Bassianus with a faked letter and buried gold. And urges Chiron and Demetrius to the following…
4. Rape and Mutilation Lavinia (daughter of Titus and recently bereaved wife of Bassanius) raped and mutilated (hands chopped off and tongue cut out) by Demetrius and Chiron. Her uncle Marcus finds her and delivers some 25 lines of verse whilst she bleeds idly by.
5. Mutilation. Titus hand chopped off by Aaron. Supposedly setting his sons free by doing this.
7. + 8. MURDER. The heads of Martius and Quintus plus his hand are returned to him soon after. This drives him mad.
9. MURDER. Marcus (brother to Titus, uncle to his kids) stabs a fly to death. Titus tells him off for doing so, until Marcus says the fly was black like Aaron.
10. MURDER. Nurse (who brings the bastard child of Aaron and Tamora for Aaron to kill) is in turn stabbed by Aaron. She squeals like a pig as she dies. Weke, weke, he says.
11. MURDER. The midwife is killed by Demetrius and Chiron on Aaron’s orders. Happens offstage.
13. MURDER. A clown who brings a letter and some pigeons along with a knife from Titus is hanged by Saturninus (the emperor). Happens offstage. Titus has been bothering Saturninus by shooting burning arrows into Rome.
14. + 15. MURDER. Chiron and Demetrius have their throats slit by Titus and Lavinia collects their blood in a basin. Their bones are crushed and made into a paste and their heads are baked in a pie.
16. MURDER. Lavinia is stabbed by her father Titus at a dinner where Tamora has just eaten the pie made of her sons.
17. MURDER. Titus stabs Tamora.
18. MURDER. Saturninus stabs Titus.
19. MURDER. Saturninus is stabbed by Lucius (last remaining son of Titus who has raised an army of Goths and is also attending the banquet).
20. MURDER. Aaron is buried to the chest in the earth and starved to death on the new emperor Lucius’ orders.
21. Aaron’s baby presumably gets a pass and isn’t murdered.
The Peacham drawing is one of the earliest stage drawings of Titus Andronicus. There is some controversy as to whether it represents Sh’s version or a German translation of it.
Found the Dutch version of Aaron and Titus by working-class poet Jan Vos (John the Fox). Still curious about those other German translations of Sh plays published in 1620 under the name of Tragodien und Komodien: Titus en Aaron can be read at this linkage for the Dutch readers. All links open in a new window.
Obviously then Titus has history and was a popular hit in his time. The wiki-wik file for Titus is long and can be read here.
But is it a fiction of Sh’s creation? Or is it based on this chapbook? Or is it based on this ballad? Both are anonymous and undated. Whatever…
Titus is often reviled as infra dig and too bloody and too early to be any good. But it stands as a guide to themes that will be explored in Sh’s later works.
The play starts with and raises the question of hereditary succession to a throne. Our hero Titus is offered the throne and refuses. The warrior who refuses to become politician. Shades here of Bolingbroke in Henry the fourth, Macbeth, and Coriolanus.
Aaron is universally acknowledged as the most evil character in Shakespeare. Check his words. (And note the killing the fly reference).
Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?
Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
Even now I curse the day—and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,—
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men’s cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.
In Aaron we find shades of other Shakespeare nasties such as Iago in Othello and Edmund the bastard in King Lear. Or even Richard the humpbacked King.
Madness is another theme dealt with whether pretended or real as in Hamlet and again King Lear.
The flaring up of passions from nowhere as Titus taking his brother Marcus to task for killing that fly is reminiscent of Leontes flash of Jealousy in Winter’s Tale.
A phrase like ‘let it be so’ is found in act 1 scene 1 line 168 (Open Source Shakespeare. Try this plug in for searching their works from your own browser).
Shakespeare’s words website found me 11 results for that exact same phrase:
King John II.i.408 let it be so. Say, where will you assault?
King John IV.ii.67 let it be so. I do commit his youth
King John V.vii.96 let it be so. And you, my noble prince,
King Lear I.i.108 let it be so! Thy truth then be thy dower!
King Lear I.iv.302 let it be so. I have another daughter,
Othello I.iii.284.2 let it be so.
The Merchant of Venice MV II.ii.105 but let it be so hasted that supper
The Merchant of Venice MV V.i.300 let it be so.
The Merry Wives of Windsor MW V.v.235.2 let it be so. Sir John,
The Two Noble Kinsmen TNK V.i.33.1
Speaking of verbal parallels how about Demetrius talking about getting Lavinia without resorting to harsher methods in
She is a woman therefore would be wooed. She is a woman therefore would be won.
Kinda echoes Pandarus with his:
our kindred, though they be long ere they are wooed, they are constant being won: in act 3 scene 2.
or Don Pedro in Much Ado about Nothing:
Here, Claudio, I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won:
How about Theseus in MND I.i.17:
Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
And now it’s starting to get parallel phrasing with Suffolk in Henry 6th part one, V.iii.78:
She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed;
She is a woman, therefore to be won.
And a final parallel phrasing in Richard 3rd just coz it’s getting late and i want to post this. R3 I.ii.228:
Was ever woman in this humour wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?
The Oxford story in details the discussion can be found at blogging shakespeare:
William Ray 10 hours ago in reply to William Sutton:
Good questions. Oxford brought the Italian style to England, what is called ‘the English Renaissance’. There was no antecedent, so it was a catch-phrase for an outburst of innovation and talent.
Oxford’s secretaries were Mundy and Lyly, usually said to be “influences” on Shakespeare. It was the other way round. Mundy and Lyly “wrote” nothing after leaving his employ.
(please, click the names above for the wikilink which lays out their writing from 1584-1602).
But they were experienced stage managers and the plays are lively with action and entertaining exchanges, just on the unprecedented level of aristocratic manners, which the public had never seen before.
Oxford also sponsored a college of writers, the University Wits and others, which continued the ‘Renaissance’ in the next generation, those who lived to do so. Recall that Jonson’s praises for ‘Shakespeare’s’ contemporary playwrights specified “sporting Kid or Marlowe”, and Lily. These were of the 1580′s well before Shakspere even arrived in London. Broad hint there as to who ‘Shakespeare’ really was.
Shakespeare’s/Oxford’s popularity was based first on the near-lurid Venus and Adonis and the also youthfully appealing Lucrece, before Shakespeare as a label ever got associated with the plays.
Then presto a dozen anonymous plays were ‘Shakespeare’s’. It sounds like a set-up deal and was, via the Meres’ announcement, but in such a form as to hint to puzzle-readers Oxford and Shakespeare were one and the same playwright.
(You’ll notice by clicking the link on Meres that he was a minister. You’d think he might have some regard for truth and honesty. You’d also think from Billy Ray’s comment that Palladis Tamia was written to promote this puzzle. Judge for yourself).
It is incorrect to say the assumption of love between Elizabeth Trenton is based on a phrase in her will. He wrote her a quite famous acrostic poem that is clearly loving and admiring.
Can you cite where I can find it and that french letter too? Oo-er)!
The character of Portia the legally skilled (cross-dressed) (love trannies) lawyer in Merchant of Venice is also based on her highly respected attempts to apply equity law more broadly in English law, not automatically applying the precedents of common law that unfairly denied justice.
There were almost no other women lawyers in England. (or even any at all) True, she had money and that saved his creative career, so he could rewrite the 1570-80′s court plays and present them in public, and finish the tragedies.
His support for the Earl’s Colne school continued even when he was destitute, from tenant taxes owed to him from the estate.
About the missing will, it is indeed curious, but Camden suggested that the powers that were (Cecils) thought they could eliminate present events from future memory.
Oxford’s probably thousands of literary letters do not exist, (convenient that) only the mining and other unflattering begging letters, to go with the Howard defamations. They did not turn up missing somehow.
About his grave, Percival Golding said it was in Francis Vere’s family vault, although his wife’s will implies it was near their King’s Place estate. That is covered over now. Nobody knows. In the present defensive climate, I don’t expect an officially approved wire-camera to search the Vere vault at Westminster.
(Here’s a link to the Oxford page up to their extinction after the 20th Earl).
On “rival companies”, a big Alan Nelson bugaboo. (Why would he give plays to rival companies when he had two of his own?) The Shakespeare plays are listed as performed by Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Pembrokes, Derbys, and Sussex’s companies,
because one, Oxford’s Men and Oxford’s Boys disappeared by 1590, and two, Oxford was not concerned with the money to be gained, but with the plenary education and cultural understanding to be gained.
(And no one knew this better than Elizabeth, whatever revulsion her advisors felt. He had royal protection).
(For what it was worth, his reputation. His penury must have been shaming beyond belief. Just like Timon. Though why Shakspere couldn’t have thought of that I don’t know.)
He may have been the last stubborn feudalist, contemptuous of money and money-makers, to a fault.
(Even Prince Hal/King Henry didn’t fraternise with the hoi polloi too much or too long. Our Shakespere suffers with poor Francis as any Snug in learning lines. He gives his Athenian craftsmen literacy. He gives a dignity to all his characters that is filled by the actor playing that role. The words are the thing that spin the story in your heart and mind. Pray God you have some!
His characters are also true to their sources and therefore already part of discourse and unnecessary to have been created by a genius noble mind.
His imaginative use of verse further deepens the drama of the time. If played well. Badly, the scorn of the backstage. The same applies today and I don’t care if it’s Shakespeare or Jonson or Middleton or Marlowe that’s playing.
Lastly, Jonson’s 1641 discussion of praise for ‘Shakespeare’s’ not blotting (smudging) a line. Then he said he wished he had crossed out a thousand. The repetition of praises for high skill seemed sincere–a prodigal talent, spoken from the underlying knowledge of the actual author’s skills.
(ah yes Ben Jonson and his manservant follower of fashion in the Tribe of Ben. Ben was actually the SHakespeare superstar of the time. His first work in theatre anecdotally thanks to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men given a boost.
His patron who never had anything to do with Oxford/ShO-Xpeare. Where’s that connection in Oxfordian accounts?
His city comedies and scathing local characters were a massive hit in the late 1590′s. Ben doubled up with Inigo Jone’s in the early 1600′s especially after Liza died, and Oxford too. His roots were in Scotland, actually the borders which is a different kettle of fish.
The other side of the ambiguity was to humanize ‘him’ as lively almost wild in temperament and quite capable of error. This instead of the ‘Monster’ (colossus) portrayed in the First Folio. Neither description, 1623 or 1641, had anything to do with Shakspere. You can see what his script looks like.
I looked at a letter written in French by de Vere when he was fourteen. He not only didn’t make a single mistake in fine French, the calligraphy is perfect. I believe it was this seemingly effortless artistic talent as much as the dramatic talent that impressed Jonson.
The more you read the elegy, the more obvious it is as a mixed message. The numerological cues confirm this impression. Seventeen words in the title, seventeen lines before Jonson writes, now I will begin, seventeen authors listed in the elegy, Shakespeare repeated four (four=vier=Vere) times, the references to the 1580′s playwrights, internal Latin puns about the AUTHORity of genius being confirmed by punishment, allusions to Oxford’s praise of Spenser and Harvey’s praise of Oxford, the similarity of the elegy beginning to a tribute Jonson had written to Susan Vere Herbert. It hasn’t been fully analyzed from the right angle yet.
End of comments so far. I’m not doing this to piss on Oxfordian’s parades. It’s for my own sanity. Doubt Falstaff, doubt the world.
I think Shakspere would see these comments as fighting words! Especially if he was that boor as in Anon. (He slices Marlowe’s throat right? ROTFLMAO)! I still don’t see it working out as the world suddenly turning en masse towards Oxenforde. Or re-writing history, literature, biographies. Much likelier he did it the same as his contemporary poets and playwrights.
You can’t control a creative environment. You have to go with the flow. But you suggest a conspiracy so large too many would have known. That’s why the anagrams and ever veres are so irritating. Coz if it’s that simple how come the close readers of the time missed it. And all the evidence of marginalia shows us they were close readers. See the Meisei Univ folio for the proof.
Who was in on this conspiracy? Besides the fact it was known in print i.e. public knowledge Oxford wrote plays and poems and anyone who could read would know. The stigma comes from the public stage presentations. I ass-u-me. Hyphens intentional.
Sh the actor knew both crafts of writing and playing. Oxenforde could never have acted on the public stage. Never. Pun intended. Private stage and the Courtly absolutely. He was definitely not to be discounted.
I believe too he had an influence on early modern private theatre but not the public stage. Too many grubby hands a Shakspere wouldn’t have minded shaking, if a man’s spirit needed lifting.
Romanticising biography stops here. But it is true. Reading Shakespeare, even a simple soliloquy, lifts your spirits and engages your everything.
Your ShO-Xpeare is priviliged by birth. That leads to the snob assertion. Noblesse oblige and all that jazz. You might be common born or peasant raised, but your candidate ain’t. The link ain’t hard to make. Your guy was coddled and groomed and then FUBAR. Still a leading Earl, a nobody at Court since the Armada and his refusal of the traditionally family post at Harwich. You’ll have me believe he served with the Bonaventure the ship that wasn’t his. Maxed out on credit but could still sell the noble patronage down the river with plays meant for the stage. SO his bright idea was what exactly?
Here follow individual interpretations and a fragmented further argument commences where nobody agrees on the exact events, or insists they do have knowledge of the exact events.
When we know that all our evidence and its multiple and far reaching conclusions do accumulate to where you must accept the record as it stands. There is no need to doubt.
Just maybe like your guy wanted to be anonymous. So did ours. He had a good thing going and it kept him and his family well. Physician heal thyself!
Another thing I like about Sh, whoever he be, he hates sycophants and they are found on all levels of society, depending on their need. Yech! Imagining Shoxperd looking down his nose, no problem. Shakspere uses gently and rounds his argument and teases it out either in words and phrases or particular attention to the verse to heighten some dramatic moment from the underdog’s and the victor’s pov.
There’s a humanity, in his middle and lower class characters, howsoever dim they be. They are by no means the humpty dumpty cut outs other writers of the time were churning out. He makes fun of the development in verse, whilst being at the cutting edge of that verse writing. (at least in the top ten of his contemporaries).
Everyone knew who he was. If he wasn’t the writer and actor, then why did his contemporaries, some of whom had extremely vicious pens, not say anything? Or do they? And we’re not reading it right.
Your man, ShOXperd, Plagued by Troubles with all his houses, mostly of his own causing. I also don’t believe he’s either Elizabeth’s sister aunt mother, or builder of gilded monuments with her for Southampton’s rose. Quirky and kinky, but unprovable. And not evidence you would actually want to use. Really.
Willy Ray I hope you take this in the spirit of the argument. There is nothing personal in this except our differing views on something, I think we can safely say, we both love and are passionate about. I wish you as much enjoyment as I derive from Sh.
But your pov on the SHOXfordian (one who must not be named by the ESTABLISHMENT) holds together with bee spit and cobwebby strands that burst apart when touched with the truth you so hotly desire.
But then there’s the thing it’s meant to be that fragile. Not meal to moth’s wing wrote Matthew Arnold about Shakspere.
I have a confession. When i read your posts I like to use a very RP accent. It’s hilarious! Or rather binnen pret, as the Dutch say; inside fun, its translation. Since you’re from California I suspect your actual voice is rather different.
These then are some of the questions we like to ask. Our candidate passes the test on what you require of a poet playwright and provides a circular argument conclusively identifying him as the author and the actor.
On the other hand you make my candidate mentally, morally, and ethically deficient in the basics of human discourse. Then why did OXford choose him?
Alternatively you can imagine the actor, but not him being the playwright. Then it follows he must have been a pretty good actor because he was playing for the Queen too. 1594, him Kempe and Burbage, revels accounts.
All the stuff that Kathman and Reedy write about in HOW we know SH wrote Sh. Every person who believes SH wrote SH, or is doubting, should read this document first. If you’re already infected with Shoxfordianism, reading this should make your blood boil and seethe your brains!
(obviously working in the case of WIlliam J Ray’s responses to Tom Reedy, co-author. Shout out to the 44-calibre Shakespeare’s Humphrey)!
I found this expose of Sh’s life on a link to Judge Stephen’s in the Wall Street Journal. The triple H is the German professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel. She’s one of us BUT she is a believer in Catholic Shakespeare.
At least her scenario gives poor Will of Stratford a chance to actually live and breathe. And gain an education. Ever since I first read of Jesuit drama I thought it may have an influence on WIll’s (as well as others and members of a theatre going public) development.
But then Catholic Shakespeare is ruled a heresy in Orthodoxy. All the pieces are put together by Triple H from education to death mask. There is no mystery. So agree or not agree? Judge for yourself:
William Shakespeare: The Features, Education and Diseases of a Genius
The genius of William Shakespeare, the creator of immortal works for the stage who is celebrated today as an icon of world literature, was already fully recognised in his own day.
One drama in particular, Hamlet, after 400 years still among the most fascinating, most read, most frequently staged, most discussed and surely most intensively studied plays of all time, had a profound emotional effect on its contemporary audience, in part because of its dangerous political content.
However, the student youth of his day had a penchant for Romeo and Juliet, and eagerly devoured his lubricious verse epic, Venus and Adonis. According to one literary source, they kept a copy of the text under their pillow, and hung a picture of the author above their bed.
As befitted the famous author, Shakespeare’s family had a lavish funerary monument erected to him, in the Jacobean Renaissance style. It was a monument that can be classed among the funerary memorials of scholars and writers of Tudor and Stuart times, to which Shakespeare as an outstanding poet was entitled.
It was embellished with a coloured, true-to-life limestone bust, based on a death mask, and bore eulogising inscriptions putting the deceased on a par with the great literary authorities of classical antiquity (Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil).
In 1623 his actor colleagues and friends published the first edition of his plays, in which they included for the first time those dramas that were politically explosive. (say what)?
Perhaps the most precious book in the world, the First Folio contains a frontispiece engraving depicting the dramatist, proclaiming his ‘work-author identity’ and thus safeguarding Shakespeare’s intellectual property. Many laudatory poems were included in the volume.
This early homage to the poet was negated, however, by the effect of the English Civil War from which the iconoclastic Puritans emerged victorious. Stratford-upon-Avon did not escape their ravages, which almost certainly included serious damage to Shakespeare’s bust in Holy Trinity Church.
But where, one may ask, did Shakespeare, the son of John and Mary Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, obtain his sound education in the humanities and also his early training as a playwright?
It all has to do with the change in religion. Just like hundreds of Catholic parents in England at that time, the Shakespeares, adherents to the old faith, must also have sent their son William to the then only Catholic English College on the Continent at Douai (which was moved to Rheims from 1578 to 1593) as soon as he had reached the entrance age of fourteen. This was in 1578.
The Shakespeares knew that they were breaking the law. It was the English ambassador to France who advised his government to punish the parents of these students severely.
Hitherto it could not be explained why John Shakespeare was summoned to appear before the Queen’s Bench in Westminster in 1580 – together with 140 other persons from all over the country. At that time the number of students at the English College was c. 140. (need to see more info on this)
It is no accident that William, who would have finished his studies in 1580, was employed as an illegal Catholic teacher or tutor in the household of Alexander Hoghton in Lancashire. Hoghton’s brother, Thomas de Hoghton, the head of the family, had left his native England for reasons of conscience and emigrated to Flanders in the late 1560s. He was a close friend of the founder of the English College (William Allen, formerly a fellow at Oxford University) and had helped building it. He also left the college 100 pounds when he died.
It is significant that the theatrical performances at Douai/Rheims were modelled on the great Jesuit theatre of the time. The Jesuits were astonishingly indifferent to Aristotle’s concept of the Three Unities of Action, Place, and Time. They preferred hybrid forms of drama, and tragicomedy in particular.
All this can easily be recognised in Shakespeare’s theatre. It was the English College at Douai/Rheims where the young Shakespeare must have obtained his academic education and his early theatrical training and practice.
Despite his illustrious literary career, the playwright was only 49 years old when he withdrew to the seclusion of his Stratford retreat.
He died three years later – probably as the result of a systemic skin sarcoidosis, an internal disease to which all organs are vulnerable, and which leads to death normally after many years.
The outer signs of this illness can be seen in all four likenesses of Shakespeare whose authenticity I was able to establish, working closely with many scientists and academics from other disciplines, including a number of medics and experts from the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA = CID or FBI).
All the tests used to establish identity led to the same unexpected and sensational result, namely that all the images investigated show the same man: William Shakespeare, taken from life.
The symptoms – in the same location each time, though reproduced at different stages of development – diagnosed by the medics show that the artists must have seen them on the living model or that they were extant in Shakespeare’s face after his death.
Thus they are significant indicators that the Chandos and Flower portraits, the Davenant bust and the Darmstadt Shakespeare death mask are true-to-life or true-to-nature representations of Shakespeare.
The thoroughly researched and publicly documented morphological and pathological characteristics of Shakespeare’s face now form a kind of catalogue of criteria, which can be applied whenever the claim is made that a well-known or newly-discovered portrait represents Shakespeare.
The Janssen portrait in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and the Cobbe portrait in the collection of Alec Cobbe, have both been tested for authenticity.
The investigations showed that the painter of the Janssen portrait was quite familiar with Shakespeare’s characteristic features and with the symptoms of his early-stage illnesses.
The artist who painted the Cobbe picture, however, was not acquainted with all the morphological characteristics of Shakespeare’s face, and in particular was unaware of pathological details, apart from a slight swelling of the left upper eyelid, of which there is only a ‘suggestion’ in his portrait.
Therefore the Cobbe picture can hardly be an authentic portrait of William Shakespeare painted from life. Neither can it have served as the model for the Droeshout engraving.
Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
 See H. Hammerschmidt-Hummel, The Life and Times of William Shakespeare, 1564-1616. London. Chaucer Press, 2007).
 The images concerned are the Chandos portrait, dating from c. 1594-99 (National Portrait Gallery, London); the Flower portrait, painted in 1609 (in the Royal Shakespeare Company collection until c. 1999, and since vanished without trace); the terracotta Davenant bust of c. 1613 (Garrick Club, London);
and the Darmstadt Shakespeare death mask, taken one or two days after Shakespeare’s death (Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Darmstadt). See Hammerschmidt-Hummel, The True Face of William Shakespeare. The Poet’s Death Mask and Likenesses from Three Periods of His Life. London: Chaucer Press, 2006).
So she doesn’t think the Cobbe portrait is life-like. Already enough to make her unliked in Stratters. Is this documentary of hers about the death mask in English or German? Stick around, I will be true.
And what about that politically charged plays entered the Folio comment? Where’s that list of 18?
As usual, more questions than answers.
If you are tired of hearing the guff about illiterate daughters and women as toys and playthings while the men do all the work and thinking. Just have a read of Aemilia Lanyer’s work.
The introductory poem to Queen Anne has so many echoes of the sonnets it makes my head spin. I’m not saying she’s Shakespeare but he was lucky if she was the Dark Lady!
William S. on Will Sh’s literacy, in him and his family.
Will’s mum and dad may have been unable to write but able to read. His father certainly was numerate. He was a successful dealer in wool and maker of gloves. Running a town council and presiding over your fellow townsfolk and a market stall in its chiefest place, speak volumes in support of his numeracy.
John Sh from the historical record sounds like a forceful figure who could act as bailiff or ale taster and be counted on to take the town’s accounts to London. To slander his name with illiterate nobody is not to take the man into account.
Backward village is how the Orksfordians describe Stratford on Avon. Sorry but backward village is where the witches live close to in Macbeth. His was a goodly market town. It lay on a transport route from the North with Lancashire, and from Wales there was a centuries old route to London.
John Harvard’s mum was brought up there. Why didn’t she mention Shakespeare or Oxford or Marlowe? In fact for not mentioning Sh i blame his son in law, Dr John Hall. Whose book on his patients starts just after Sh’s death. And is the only one extant of the two.
Can you imagine Sh’s medical records as recorded by his son in law, presumably his physician? But John Hall in 1607 married Sh’s eldest daughter, Susanna, whose signature we have, so she could write and presumably read. The reading preceding the writing one assumes.
Brother Gilbert too the haberdasher who followed Will to London left a signature so I guess he could read and write too. And Edward the youngest, the actor in London who really followed his big brother’s footsteps. He was an actor and therefore must have been literate.
In fact it would be a distinct disadvantage to be illiterate if you were an Elizabethan and Jacobean actor. But again that doesn’t necessarily mean they could write.
I suppose there may have been the odd dyslexic actor who memorised his lines as another read them to him. I have done this with an Israeli actor I know. So if Sh was an actor, and actors were literate, Sh could read and write. Sort of, according to his signatures. Love the cheeky dot in the W in each of the them.
Business was what was driving London’s economy and the first multi-nationals came into being as a result of this thinking. The English East India Company formed in 1600. Though it was the Dutch East India Company who traded stocks on the Amsterdam Bourse for the first time in 1602. Oxford’s still alive, so’s Shakespeare.
The Dutch were a driving force in business in early modern europe. Literacy I’m sure helped them, but numeracy had to have been a must.
Of all the nations in Europe, the Dutch, the most commercial, are the most faithful to their word . . . This is not at all to be imputed to national character, as some pretend . . .
It is far more reduceable to self interest, that general principle which regulates the actions of every man, and which leads men to act in a certain manner from views of advantage, and is as
deeply implanted in an Englishman as a Dutchman.
A dealer is afraid of losing his character,
and is scrupulous in observing every engagement. When a person makes 20 contracts in
a day, he cannot gain so much by endeavouring to impose on his neighbours, as the very
appearance of a cheat would make him lose.
324 E. Stringham / The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 43 (2003) 321–344 (1766/1982, p. 538)
Shakespeare has something to say on pretty much every aspect of being human and having human passions. To do this he touches on many subjects and his knowledge is encyclopaedic. Does this mean he is a polymath? Is he also an expert of these subjects?
I don’t think so. Definitely not when compared to the knowledge certainties of Bacon, or Marlowe, or Jonson.
Shakespeare was a natural. You can define natural all you want but it defies description. It just is. The closest commmentary we have about him tells us that was how he was considered.
A good print shop inventory might contain a bunch of sources for example. Now how could dumbass actor Shagsberds get his hands on that? Hmmm. His fellow grammar school student and London friend, Richard Field apprenticed to one of Belgiums finest printer perhaps.
Sh needed a place of study for his sources for his plays, as above, or anyone with the right library. He needed to physically write the stuff: quill to ink to paper. He needed candles if it was dark. He needed to want to write what he wrote. He needed someone to sell his work to. That’s it.
He worked for the leading theatre company of his time. A job I’m sure they didn’t give to morons.
Today Shakespeare is a brand. Stronger perhaps than the Queen of England. Coca Cola and Nike are tikes in comparison. Shakespeare, however you spell or hyphenate it, is a juggernaut of a brand. And every generation since his own, has had an ever-increasing earful of what, or who he was.
Actually the only people who cared after his death were those that had known him in the best: the world of theatre. It was they who kept his memory and plays alive. That would be scanned.
Changing taste lead to his plays ironically being out of date and remained unpopular for the stage until the Restoration. Whereupon the stage changed the sad endings for happy, or added speeches of their own devising. Then a whole line of theatre actor/managers revived his roles, bringing fame and fortune to themselves.
Also don’t forget from his time the quartos of the plays remained alive and well. Early readers bought him and his collected works in the First Folio took its toll from a reading public, if it wasn’t available in their local theatre.
Amateur productions of Shakespeare date to his time as well as on the East India Company ship waiting for wind off the coast of Africa. Hamlet got played. Oh to have been a sailor on that ship that night.
Would they have talked of the author or more likely, as all the marginalia and accounts of the early modern tells us, of the details of the play, some moral lesson to be learned, or as a pointer to something elsewhere.
Who wrote it is of least importance. Unless you were a rival purveyor of the same craft or trade. The Elizabethans slandered and libelled each other all over the place. Lawsuits were common; from piddling amounts to complicated estate escrow.
But now he began to be talked about as a writer. His plays re-edited and published to a wider audience. Copyright appeared in 1709 and suddenly the rights to Shakespeare the product were available. Now a biography is needed and no one has thought to question the people closest to him. Either family, or theatre, or writer friends.
Over the next hundred years a romantic vision of Shakespeare grows from the sparse information we have. THEN the problem of authorship appears.
My name be buried where my body is,
And live no more, to shame nor me nor you.