Friday, 22 February 2019

English Literature - William Shakespeare

Settle down now, and pay attention. Today's History Lesson is about a famous Elizabethan who lived between 1564 and 1616 by the name of William Shakespeare. It is not known what other name he had outside of this period, but to many he was also known as the "Beard of Avon", because he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in England and because he had a beard. But then, most people at the time had beards and they were not called the "Beard of London", "the Beard of Nottingham", or wherever else they came from.

Shakespeare's life is full of controversy and it is fair to say that he is the most talked about subject of conversation and debate in England (and elsewhere) apart from the weather. That is, if you have nothing else to talk about apart from Shakespeare and the weather. Some people like to discuss science, medicine, politics, religion, saving the planet, conservation, re-cycling and numerous other subjects, but they are not as important as Shakespeare and the weather.

One of the greatest controversy about Shakespeare is whether he actually wrote the 30 or so plays, sonnets and such like writings or not. The fact that they have been written is not in dispute; but their authorship is.

Can you imagine being the author of all these writings and be forever praised and lauded by everyone?

"To be or not to be?" to quote Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

So let's consider this controversy further for a moment and see what we know about old Bill the Beard.

He was an actor who went to London and made a small fortune in the theatre, and also by purchasing properties (theatres amongst others) which made him very rich. He returned to Stratford-upon-Avon and bought a large house and his fame spread.

Now then ... since no one actually saw him sitting at his computer late at night typing away furiously his many plays; it is safe to suggest that perhaps ... maybe ... there's a possibility ... that he was only the financial backing behind all these plays. He was a rich man, owned many theatres, and it is possible that he put on plays as a business; very much like a modern day producer puts on plays, or makes films or produces music records and CDs these days. It doesn't follow that today's producers write the plays or sing the songs on record; does it?

In time, Shakespeare's fame and plays became synonymous to saying "hoover" when we mean a vacuum cleaner, or "thermos" when we mean a vacuum flask. People went to see "Shakespeare plays" - that is plays produced and financially backed, but not written, by him.

Now, whatever the controversy about the authorship of these writings, one thing is for sure and un-disputed.

For years on thereafter, many generations of pupils have been forced to learn these plays and sonnets by heart for no apparent reason whatsoever, since they have no purpose in gaining you subsequent employment or career unless you wish to become a teacher and force another generation of students to study the same.

At school I had to read many Shakespeare plays and believe me they are really boring. There isn't one car chase in any of them! And he uses old style English antique language. He doesn't use words like "cool" or "you're hot" or "I dig you baby" or anything like that.

I remember as a child having to memorise several of the Beard's writings. The one that comes to mind with dread is from the play Antony and Cleopatra when Antony's lieutenant Enobarbus, once described Cleopatra's charms by saying: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety. Other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies."

Which loosely translated means "She is a good looker, I'd say. Makes my monocle steam up, by Jove. Would love sharing more than a pot of tea with her ... what!"

I remember my teacher saying I should remember these lines by heart and quote them in the exams as it would comfort the examiner and make him more liable to award me good marks.

Of course, as a child, I did not know what they meant; but I memorised these words and repeated them over and again.

Unfortunately, a few days later our history teacher was late because his mother had died that morning. To comfort him I blurted, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety."

I got expelled for three days from school as a result. For some reason, I also failed my history exams that year.

And there you have it ... William Shakespeare ... the Beard of Stratford-upon-Avon ... writer ... perhaps ... dreaded memory of my past ... certainly.

22 comments:

  1. Never have cared for William's writings that much...but I sure enjoy you interpretations of "great literature" Victor :)

    God's Blessings~

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    1. Thanx Jan. It was really difficult at school having to memorise his, and other writers' works. I hated reading their books knowing full well they would never ever read mine.

      God bless.

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    2. I love your humor and I am so happy that you were taught to share :)

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    3. Thank you Jan for these kind words. Unfortunately, my humour did not go down well at work. I used to stick rulers and pens to the desk with clear tape then ask a colleague to lend me their pens, or ruler.

      God bless.

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  2. Great stories, best told in modern language if you ask me.

    I like James Patterson novels, most these days, and it seems he writes about five a year, are JAMES PATTERSON and in very small print "someone else." They are all a similar style, but pretty sure good old James does not write very much in many of them. I guess the same could also be true on Shakespeare. Who would buy a book or go to a play if written by "someone else."

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    1. The controversy as to who wrote Shakespeare's works will go on for many years, I guess.

      God bless you, JoeH.

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  3. Tripped up by Shakespeare! I didn't see the end coming, Victor, and it's a great one.
    Blessings!

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    1. I'm so pleased you enjoyed this story, Martha. Oddly enough, I enjoyed Chaucer and other writers. It was Shakespeare that I found difficult to understand.

      God bless you, Martha.

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  4. I can honestly say, nothing I was compelled to read while in school has been of any use in the Real World. Some professors have little imagination.

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    1. Good point well made, Mevely. Literature, and books, are made to be enjoyed, not study ad infinitum trying to decide what the author meant when he wrote this and that ... Why do we over complicate things?

      God bless you always.

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  5. Shakespeare was not a friend of mine. Lots of people don't care for the man but then again lots do care for him. I always wondered why that was. Have a wonderful weekend, Victor.

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    1. When I was young I wrote a couple of plays and comedy revues which we put on stage to raise money for charity. I looked and Shakespeare was not in the audience. So why should I go and see his plays?

      God bless you always, Bill. Happy weekend.

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  6. You got another smile out of me, Victor.

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    1. That's good know, Chris, and it makes me happy.

      God bless you my friend.

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  7. Entertaining, as always, Victor!! You sure have a way with words and twisting the facts to suit your humor! That's a compliment, by the way!!

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    1. Thank you, Terri, for the kind compliment. I did not twist the facts; Shakespeare was really boring.

      Glad I made you smile. God bless.

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  8. Thanks for the history lesson :-)

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