‘What a piece of work is man’

books, culture, literature, poetry

wit Shakespeare

I can’t help it, but after trawling through piles of material on Shakespeare I am now feeling very melancholy; that isn’t a stretch for me as my natural inclination is one of profound disturbance around the meaning of being human.  Anyway, in learning more about the man, and I think I have despite all his attempts to evade any sort of factual capture ( he managed to live in London for seven years without signing on the dotted line, it was a legal requirement to observe Sunday service and sign a name against an address, but he didn’t).

The number of tributes to the man was enormous, and so effusive in the language – before we had Oscar speeches and BAFTA awards.  I am talking serious praise from serious people.

‘The morning star,the guide and the pioneer of true philosophy’      Coleridge

‘He is really, really the genius; he has gone to the bottom of everything, divined everything, said everything. He is always true to nature.’        Alexander Dumas

‘Shakespeare is a great psychologist and we learn from him the lessons of Nature’.    Goethe

‘The great master who knew everything.’   – Charles Dickens

So after reading a number of  poems penned by previous poets praising the Bard for his authorship, I came across this one from Matthew Arnold which touched me.  That’s what poets are meant to do – and it is what Shakespeare unfailingly achieved time after time, showing us the joys and tribulations of what it means to live life on earth.  The magic is in the alchemy of turning words into arrows of emotion, mixed with the unprecedented (at that time) unravelling of the human pysche in drama;  he wrote the truth . He wrote it well.

matthew Arnold

references;  worldly wisdom;  http://hdl.handle.net/2027/loc.ark:/13960/t5db8q05g?urlappend=%3Bseq=77

Tributes To Shakespeare;  http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc2.ark:/13960/t3319w18c

Although reading the tributes has brought out some sadness in me, my greater emotion is one of wonder and awe that ever one human managed to walk the streets of London and know so much about human nature, then be able to communicate it by not one medium, but two. Writing plays is not the same as writing poetry, and I get the feeling Shakespeare had quite a lot of lightness of heart when he left for London to become part of the dramatic ensemble, so when the theatres got shut down for some time because of plague, he turned his attention to poetry and stormed it.

‘He peered thro’ nature with a prophet’s ken,
He pierced her secrets with a poet’s eye,-
With passion, power and high philosophy,
He set the spirit’s inner-gates apart;
He stripped the shackles from the souls of men,
And sacked the fortress of the human heart.

James Newton Matthers 1884

Last word has to got W.H .Auden simply because through all the research I am ploughing through I keep coming back to the idea that there is no actual mystery, the truth of the man is told in the things he wrote, and he wrote for a living. His own life he played close to  his chest, and why shouldn’t he? In a world that was on its head, civil liberties at peril after the horrendous turbulent times at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, spies everywhere, belonging to a family of the persecuted minority ( the Catholics), and new knowledge being disseminated changing the world view. Galileo was born in the same year as Shakespeare, he stood at the beginning of modern astronomy contemporary with Bruno, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, and Kepler.  How would a young man deal with such interesting times, one with a quick intelligence and ambition?

‘To be able to devote one’s life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character. Shakespeare never takes himself too seriously. ‘

Lectures on Shakespeare – W.H. Auden