13 September, 2006

My Heroes: (16 ) William Shakespeare


My 'Heroes' series is not in order of merit. The reason Shakespeare hasn't appeared until now is that I've been working on it and, even if nobody reads it, I don't want to get it wrong! Shakespeare was born, appropriately enough, on St Geoges Day in 1564. (He also died on St George's Day). As I get older my appreciation of his genius still increases and I see him as not merely one of the two or three greatest Englishmen who ever lived but as belonging to all English-speaking peoples, even to the whole world. His abilities, I will try to show, go far beyond simply being a great writer. He had great psychological insight and pre-figured many later Freudian and Jungian findings. He added countless number of words and phrases to the English language; so many, in fact, that our everyday speech is very much shaped by his creativity. The range of his influence is too great to cover here but I will say that Hamlet is probably the greatest piece of written drama the world has ever seen. His work includes tragedies, comedies, histories, the unclassifiable Tempest and the sonnets and poems.
I learned the following sonnet by heart and often recite it to myself. I recommend doing this because the effort will be repaid as many times as you care to recite it.
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 dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

15 Comments:

Blogger serenity said...

Being completely unappreciative of Shakespeare in school, I now find myself cultivating appreciation for his writing.

This sonnet you have selected is especially beautiful.

May we all retain the spirit of our own eternal summer.

Blessings and peace and heartfelt appreciation to you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006  
Blogger Vive42 said...

ah yes, but what about this one, hmm?

My mistress' 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 damask'd, 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.


In my senior year at high school I wrote an scathing response (in sonnet form naturally) from the perspective of the object of this sonnet, after having read the "summers' day" sonnet. unfortunately it's one of my lost works.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

I got close to Shakespeare in the early 70s thru artistic involvement with the Park performances in several states. Renaissance Fairs and the like. Wonderful stuff, dialogue, action, magnificent costumes and tremendous joy in just watching, enthralled, speechless. He truly is a Great of all times.

Also the Film/Stage performers, I forget the name of your English actor who was so 'able' with Shakespeare, but he certainly was.

And of course Richard Burton was great doing Shakespeare. Oh, man, Bazza, the man wrote the best material, and in the best way! Incredible Human!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

serenity: Thank you, your prose is like poetry and wafts o'er me like a gentle breeze!

vive: What can I say? He was a man for all seasons and probably had a lot of different girl (and boy) friends. I think the sonnet you have quoted is equally good and very honest, blunt in fact. Do you like it? If I compared Vive to a summer's day I would say "She is like a sudden electric storm that ends a scorching hot day!"

jim: You are probably thinking of Laurence Olivier who's Henry V is one of my best ever movies (I should add it to my profile but it's getting crowded in there).
'Incredible Human' says it right.

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger serenity said...

I like to look at this sonnet a bit differently too. I know it is the conventional to interpret these as discussing loves in the form of people, but I like to look at this one too as an interpretation of youth in general, not specific to an individual.

The summertime of our youth blazes in glorious passion with summer's lease having all too short a date ....... and yet our eternal summer shall not fade as if we always retain a part of our youthful essence of summertime throughout our lives.

Thank you for your kind words, Bazza. You are a joy and a treasure!

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Imemine said...

But of course, Shakespeare. But me no buts! Complete works available for download.

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

serenity: One of the things I love about Shakespeare's work is the way in which it is open to many interpretations. I have always thought of this as a very personal poem but you see it in a different way and your way makes sense too. I like the way the last two lines emphasize the timelessness of the piece as if he knew that we would be reading it 400 years later.

imemeine: Hi, Shakespeare is, indeed, available for complete download. He seems to be one of the most widely and comprehensively resourced subjects on line.

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Dr. A said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Thought I would do the same. I very much agree with your comments about Shakespeare.

I've managed to read most of your blog - enjoyed what I've read. I'm going to add you to my links, if that's ok.

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

What is this I hear about a group called "Oxfordians". They attack the historical accuracy of the bard's life story and contend that the real author was the 17th Earl of Oxford. Apparently, the works were too beautiful to have been composed by a commoner. Smells like elitist sour grapes to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

dr. a: I would be delighted to be linked from your interesting site Doc. I am going to be listing 'Blogs I read' in my sidebar soon!

slaghammer: There has been a mini-industry around that topic almost since he started writing. Like most conspiracy theories there is absolutely no proper evidence of any kind. You could be right about the 'sour grapes' though. People cannot comprehend his kind of genius in their midst. One theory even has him as a woman in drag!

Thursday, September 14, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

One of the most rewarding books I ever read was, "Hamlet's Enemy" by Theodore Lidz. Lidz was a Professor of Psychiatry at Yale. He suggested that madness is the great Shakespeare theme and that the plays contain amazingly detailed descriptions of various mental conditions.
For me there are certain characters ( Falstaff, Hamlet, Iago) that are as real as anyone I have ever met.
Also there are certain phrases that show how Sh. has his finger on the human pulse:
Lear "no, no that way madness lies"
Lady Macbeth "a little water clears us of this deed"
Macduff's reaction to the terrible news of the death of his family where he cannot take in what has been said.

Thanks for your choice of hero Bazza. For me Sh. has taught me far and away more about human beings than anyone else.

Friday, September 15, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

ps
Have you ever seen the Russian film of Hamlet by Kozintsev? It is reckoned by many to be the best film of Hamlet.

Friday, September 15, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Rob: That's a very interesting comment you make. Hamlet certainly has all the complexities and foibles of a real person. I wander what medium he would have graced had he been alive today.
I am not familiar with the Kozinstev hamlet but I'll look out for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006  
Blogger gem said...

The rhyming couplet at the end always does me in. Believe it or not, I shared this sonnet with my eighth graders to teach them iambic pentameter before they go to high school. Some giggled, but some get it. And when you get this sonnet, you never forget, do you, bazza? Beautiful post.

Friday, September 15, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

gem: I learned iambic pentameter through 'If music be the food of love play on' but I am sure it was at a later age than the kids you taught!

Friday, September 15, 2006  

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