Happy Shakespeare Day! Yes There Is Such a Thing

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“TO BE, OR NOT TO BE. THAT IS THE QUESTION”

 

Poetry … you love it or you hate it. Often you fall in to one of these two tribes, with very few picking any sort of middle ground. In my experience, you probably start by hating poetry UNTIL you find one that relates to you PERSONALLY

Good Timber by Douglas Malloch is a poem that inspires great wisdom and clarity to me about what is expected of manly men to live and thrive today.

It centralizes and encapsulates what it really is like to face hardship, struggle and pain as a man, yet eloquently makes the acceptance of this reality much easier – even teaching you to welcome it. It resonated with me because I know deep down I am aware of both the inevitably necessity of what it’s trying to explain:  

“Good timber does not grow with ease:

The stronger wind, the stronger trees;

The further sky, the greater length;

The more the storm, the more the strength.

By sun and cold, by rain and snow,

In trees and men good timbers grow.”

A good poet will have a way of injecting great density and clarity into fewer words than that of a traditional author. Though on paper it looks relatively easy to come up with what appears to be a collection of random obscure observations, with no real point to it – it is harder to do in practice.

Why poetry just ‘works’ is a bit of a mystery in itself and extremely subjective, but there are people in years gone by (many, many years) that helped to create the ideal structure to a well written poem which paved the way for more modern poetry to reach popularity. 

Here are some of my favourite poems, a couple written by me.

Which is why on the 23rd of April, people celebrate “Shakespeare Day”. With exception to the Psalmists and king David from the Bible, he is arguably one of the biggest trail blazers of poetry known to man. Have you ever noticed all catchy poems have a certain bounce and rhythm to it? It was thanks to this guy creating the 14 line Sonnet.

“The Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains, four line stanzas, and a couplet, which is two lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is “abab cdcd efef gg” and it is written in iambic pentameter.”Penandthepad.com

What’s all the Fuss about Shakespeare?

If you’ve ever taken a look at any of his work, the style of language would strike as a little old fashioned. That’s because he really did live in a different time to us. The world has mostly moved on from the old english written dialect in favour of multicultural and emoji riddled literature. 

Just take a look at my writing now – it is far different to how people spoke and wrote in the 1500s. After several hundred years, things change, culture shifts and so does the form factor, distribution and the way which writing (or what is now more broadly referred to as “media” or “content”) is consumed. 

But why has William Shakespeare’s work stuck around, despite the changing times? 

5 Point History Lesson

  1. William Shakespeare was born at Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in 1564 (exact date unknown), and died in 1616 at age 52 (exact date and cause unknown).
  2. His career started as an actor and playwright as a member of “The Lord Chamberlain’s Company” but later the name was changed to the “King’s Company”.
  3. The company would later build their own theatre named “Globe Theatre” which was located in Southwark across the river Thames. Sadly this was destroyed by fire in 1613 on June 29 which ironically is said to be caused by a cannon shot during a performance of William Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII.”.
  4. In these early times of theatre and stage performance, every character was exclusively played by men – no females allowed (Cancel worthy behaviour by today’s standard – the news media would have a field day over it).
  5. Popularity of Shakespeare and the success that followed him happened because he had the skill to match the tastes of a diverse audience with simple plots and complex depth. His theatrical recipe contained many interlocking plots, twists, nuance, question marks and mystery. No matter where you stood on the economical and social ladder, if you got the chance to see him as an audience member, there was a good chance you would be hooked with intrigue – With this came the talk of the town, and pretty soon wide spread infamy.

 

Famous Poems 

(With Excerpts)

The Phoenix And The Turtle

“Truth may seem but cannot be;

Beauty brag but ’tis not she;

Truth and beauty buried be.”

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes (SONNET 29)

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

That time of year thou mayst in me behold (SONNET 73) 

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire,

Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.

Random Facts

Shakespeare had such a knack for his wordsmithing that he created new words such as “lonely” and “gossip”, even new entire phrases from his plays: 

“fashionable” – Troilus and Cressida 

“Sanctimonious” – Measure for Measure 

“eyeball” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 “lackluster”–  As You Like It

“foregone conclusion” – Othello

“in a pickle” – The Tempest

“wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet

 “one fell swoop” – Macbeth

Conclusion

As you can see with the C.V that this man had, Shakespeare, whether you love or hate his material, is here to stay. Few of us will be lucky enough to create something “timeless” and be talked about through the ages. Few of us will indeed be “remembered” in the history books, let alone have a calendar day to celebrate our own goofy magnificence. 

What I CAN say I have learned from “Shakespeare Day” is this:

Get creating, get writing and leave the history books to somebody else. Whether I have groundbreaking influence or none at all is not up to me. Wanting to write that one “timeless” piece of work is applaudable in heart, but it is insignificant to the actual goal of loving true words, sharing true words and reading more true words. That is the kind of legacy worth striving for. I leave you with this ever popular piece of work which you may of heard of…

Hamlet – Act III

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Happy Shakespeare Day!