Beautiful Writing: Part 2: Shakespeare

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I am happy to return to this series about writing that has beauty in it. 

I would certainly be avoiding the truth and not doing duty to writing if I did not include in this series the man who is certainly the best and most important writer in English Drama and Literature: William Shakespeare.

In full disclosure, I am a Shakespearean. I have made the study of his work one of my areas of my Ph.D. in English, I have taught Shakespeare many times, I have presented papers on Shakespeare, and I have directed and acted in his plays. So, I do come with a particular bias, but I maintain that his work is the core of English Literature.

You certainly do not have to agree with me.

I will offer a few examples:

Sonnet 116

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

 

Henry V (Act 4. Scene 3. Lines 21-70)

 

“What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is called the feast of Crispian:

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

 

Hamlet (Act 5. Scene 2. Lines 206-211)

 

“Not a whit, we defy augury: there’s a special

 providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,

 ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be

 now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the

 readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he

 leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?”

A Shakespearian Sonnet for Valentine’s Day

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Sonnet # 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

William Shakespeare

Thoughts From Chaucer and Shakespeare

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Today I will offer a few quotations from writers from earlier eras about creativity, learning, and teaching.

Geoffrey_Chaucer_-_Illustration_from_Cassell's_History_of_England_-_Century_Edition_-_published_circa_1902

(illustration from Cassell’s History Of England – Century Edition – published circa 1902)

“And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”

“And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.”

These are the Middle English and the Modern English versions of this quotation from “The General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This idea is of enormous importance to me, because I am both a teacher and a life-long student.  All people should try to continue to learn throughout their lives and to teach someone else the wisdom they have amassed.

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(Portrait of William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor
NPG London)

“Suit the action to the word,

the word to the action, with this special observance,

that you o’erstep not the modesty of of nature. For

anything so over-done is from the purpose of playing,

whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to

hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue

her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age

and body of the time his form and pressure.”

                                William Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 3. Scene2. lines 16-23)

Shakespeare speaks to the importance of representing life and humanity as it is and to examine the world in its complexities; it can also be an injunction for all creative efforts. I do not mean we should eliminate abstraction, metaphor, or altered forms, but that, at our core, we are creating art about humanity and our world.

Keep learning and keep sharing what you know.

Returning to Dining With Authors

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Renaissance_theatre)

The drawing of the Swan Theatre (1596)

Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, The Tempest, and Edward the Second are just a few of the plays produced by the two greatest playwrights of the Renaissance: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Born in the same year–1564, they were the two premier writers of their age and arguably among the  most important of any era. These are writers who have informed both my studies and entranced my imagination.  At Muhlenberg College, I teach Renaissance drama courses and Shakespeare . This summer I am teaching a course called Renaissance Plays In Process, in which we look at several plays and the circumstances surrounding them in the Renaissance as well as how they might be produced today. Whenever I can, I love teaching about these playwrights.

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Christopher Marlowe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Marlowe

I would love to have the opportunity through a magic time machine to sit down and have a conversation with these two giants of the theater. I would invite both writers to spend an afternoon or evening at a pub–English of course–and over beer and food discuss many topics with them. I am sure that sometimes I would simply listen to them.

I would love to hear what they said about their work and how they felt about each other. I would love to learn from them the specifics of the way their plays were staged. I would ask Marlowe about his mysterious work for the Queen of England.  Was he a spy?  I do not know if he would answer, but I would still have to ask.

I would ask Shakespeare about the canon of his plays.  Were there plays he wrote that are currently lost?  If so, what are they? And I have often wondered if he ever considered writing a tragedy about King Arthur.

I also wonder how the two great writers would behave together. Would this be a polite conversation, a deep discussion of theatrical issues, or a wild and fiery debate or argument among bitter rivals?

I wish I could speak with them.

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If you could speak with 2 or 3  authors, no matter living or dead, who would they be? Where would you like to have the meeting?

Shakespeare on Wisdom

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“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

                                               As You Like It

 

And seeing ignorance is the curse of God, Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”

                                              Henry VI, Part 2

 

“There is no darkness but ignorance”

                                              Twelfth Night

 

 

A Shakespeare Quotation: 2

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In Hamlet, after the King has issued a challenge for Hamlet to fight a duel, which is supposed to be a sporting event with Laertes, but in which the King has planned for Hamlet to die, Hamlet’s closest friend, Horatio warns him to avoid the contest. Hamlet, however, dismisses the fear of death.

HORATIO: If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will

forestall their repair hither and say you are not fit.

HAMLET: Not a whit. We defy augery. There is special

providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis

not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it

be not now; yet it will come. The readiness is all. (5. 2. 217-220)

 

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare Seventh

Edition. David Bevington editor. Pearson. 2014.

A Quotation From William Shakespeare Part I

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I am beginning a new series of quotations, in which I will feature pieces from one particular author for several weeks. I begin with the best and most important, William Shakespeare.

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(Photo by Mike on Pexels.com)

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.

The Tempest (4. 1. 146-158)

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare Seventh Edition. David

Bevington. Editor. Pearson. Boston. 2014.

My Recommended Reading List!

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In my college classes at both Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA,  I sometimes do something I call — Chuck’s recommended readings.  I ask the students to write the title and author I suggest and then tell the students that what they do with that information is entirely up to them.  I have put together a partial list of some of the books I have suggested. Some of them I consider among the best and most important books ever written, and some I simply found to be wonderful and entertaining.

Now, the list of Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings:

Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.

Brown, Larry. Fay.

Cervantes, Miguel De. Don Quixote.

Delaney, Frank. Ireland.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.

Doyle, Roddy. A Star Called Henry.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose.

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.

Grass, Günter. The Tin Drum.

Helprin, Mark. A Soldier of the Great War.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Pacific and Other Stories.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Homer. The Iliad.

. . . . . . . The Odyssey.

King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Stand.

Lee, Harper.  To Kill A Mockingbird.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  Complete Works.

Rice, Anne. Interview With the Vampire.

Rowling, J. K. The entire Harry Potter series.

Shakespeare, William. The Collected Works.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind.

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.

I am certain there are many books I have forgotten to mention.  This is neither intended to be all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be authoritarian.  I hope that someone may find a book or books from this list, read them, and enjoy them.

Happy reading!

 

 

A Renewed Call To Join The Underground Library Society!

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S.,the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

10 Books That Influenced Me

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After doing a post about the 10 most influential books to literature,  I wanted to create a post about the 10 books I consider the most influential books to  me.  I am open to all suggestions.

Hamlet. William Shakespeare.

The Iliad. Homer.

Le Morte d’ Arthur. Sir Thomas Malory.

The Lord Of The Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien.

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury.

The Stand. Stephen King.

The Shadow of the Wind. Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes.

Frankenstein. Mary Shelley.

Dracula.  Bram Stoker.

What are some of the most influential books for you?