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Thursday, 20 September 2012

WHO WAS THIS BLOKE CALLED SHAKESPEARE?

It's a fact that Shakespeare is the only writer of any kind, or nation, that virtually every school kid is forced to read at some point in their young lives. J K Rawling...eat your heart out, though who knows what the future may hold! Though I have to say that Potter really isn't in the same game as Macbeth!

For Shakespeare to command such respect over the centuries means he must have been quite a guy with a reasonably good business head on his shoulders and probably a fairly impressive agent and business team. On the other hand he may have just been incredibly lucky. Let's face it, he wasn't the most popular playwrite in Elizabethan England. Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe drew bigger crowds and it wasn't until the 19th century that Will S was acclaimed a genius...200 years after he died, the poor man!

He wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets and lots of other poems, which considering he died when he was 52 and retired 3 years earlier than that mean he must have spent most of his days writing, and probably most of his nights as well! Only Barbara Cartland and George Simenon came anywhere near to the same productivity and both lived to ripe old ages. That's not to say he didn't write all the works attributed to him, but like in American Sitcoms, there may well have been a team of Will Shakespeares penning away. Actually if you actually look through one of his plays, they're quite short in the number of words and pages. It's the interpretation on stage that takes the time, though even there Mr S helped out giving detailed instructions on entrances and exits. The most famous being "Exits, as though chased by a bear"!

One day, someone will open Shakespeare's tomb in Stratford. Legend has it that hidden in the tomb is the truth as to whether he really wrote all his plays and sonnets or whether they were written by either Bacon, or a team of ghost writers. Rumour also has it that he was gay, was actually a woman and didn't actually exist at all, tough that would probably mean that his tomb is empty and that Anne Hathaway was a delusionist who invented him to account for the three children that appeared out of the blue!
The curse stopping anyone opening the tomb  is as follows:
Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones.
It obviously worked as a deterrent, because even when the church was renovated in 2008 everyone was very careful not to disturb the tomb. Unfortunately Shakespeare doesn't say what the curse consists of, but it probably has something to do with having to site through all 38 plays in one go and learn all the sonnets by heart. A school kid's nightmare!

When I was at school I took A level English Literature, much of which meant studying  Shakespeare and his contemporaries and I have to admit that of the lot Shakespeare came fairly well down the list. John Dryden, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson were all more saucy and in many way funnier than the Bard, with the exception of Dryden who was a romantic. Volpone and Bartholomew Fair I always reckoned to be better than Hamlet, or any of Shakespeare History plays, but the 19th century critics forced Shakespeare to the fore and he hasn't looked back.. It's just a shame his descendants don't get royalties from sales of his plays in print form and from the thousands of performances round the world.

As a quotable author he's given the English languages some of the best known quotes:
 - To be, or not to be, that is the question (often used in comedy shows!)
 - Is this a dagger I see before me? (Many comic answers have been given!)
 - Now is the winter of my discontent.
 - This too, too solid flesh (often said of aging ballet dancers)
 - Make me immortal with a kiss (WRONG! That was from Dr Faustus by Marlowe!)
 - Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
 - Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo? (Under the bleedin' curtain, according to Tony Hancock)
 - Out damn Spot! (and don't come back in until you've had a pee!)
Plus so many more, and that alone makes him unique.

It looks as though he existed, was born and died in Stratford and spent some twenty plus years in London writing numerous plays and putting them on the stage at The Globe and elsewhere. He probably wrote all the plays himself because the style is very consistent as is the spelling....
....and there's the inconsistency. Shakespeare actually spelled his name in 16 different ways, which in itself is a stunning achievement, but rather unusual in a man who was credited with being the world's greatest playwrite. OR WAS HE????

Blog on, Dudes!

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