Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunil Sharma writes

Cultural transmutation: Will Shakespeare -- 400

There comes a time when you become
A Lear
in your life
sometimes one by one
sometimes all rolled into one
and, sometimes, in piecemeal.
You are, that moment, a Will Shakespeare
Will becomes you
the creator, created and the recipient -- isomers of artistic universe.
You inhabit a temporal paradox
a dualism of time...here
making and unmaking of moments
real and lapsed collapsing in the same moment
Simultaneously posited in 1564-1616 and 2016
Flitting between an English Court and postmodern Mumbai/Madrid.
How time is caught, preserved, anesthetized -- and revived!
In your current finger tips you hold bits of brittle time
faded lost buried in a tomb or tome in a library
an era gone forever but retrieved and re-incarnated
between a text and your eyes!
Will Shakespeare defies time
an encyclopedia is shown in his lines and songs
the full nature of human beings revealed on/off the stage
folios and films.
In dear William Shakespeare, each finds a bit of themselves
neatly labeled, documented and analyzed
a Hamlet
and other dramatic personae
at varied times by donning their robes and lines.
sediments of ages…lie inside the plays and sonnets 
for us to find.
There, yet not there, yet there-not here
here-there, there-here, living two realms of space-time
turning into
a fool
a grave digger
a babbling Lear finding clarity and sanity
in moments of insanity!

  A sculptor’s workshop Strafford on Avon, 1617 -- Henry Wallis
[Ben Jonson shows Gerard Johnson the (alleged) death mask of William Shakespeare for his memorial sculpture in his home town.]


  1. William Shakespeare, famous for his writings, left behind a scanty written record of his life. The baptismal register of the Holy Trinity parish church in Stratford has an entry on 26 April 1564 for Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare, (William son of John Shakespeare), so by tradition his birthday has been celebrated three days earlier, but the tradition may have been symbolic since 23 April was St. George's Day, dedicated to England's patron saint, and in 1616 Shakespeare died on 23 April. It was common for children to be baptized three days after their birth, though The Book of Common Prayer mandated baptism on the nearest Sunday or holy day after birth unless the parents had a legitimate excuse; but if he had been born on 23 April, a Sunday, the next feast day would have been St. Mark's Day, Tuesday the 25th. However, that day had long been regarded as unlucky; altars and crucifixes were draped in black, and people claimed to see the spirits of those who would die that year. His next recorded appearances were his marriage at 16 and the birth of his daughter six months later. In 1585 he had twins. Then nothing is known about him until 1592, when the dying dramatist Robert Greene wrote derogatory comments about him (perhaps by then he had written the three parts of "Henry VI.") In 1593 he dedicated his first poem, "Venus and Adonis," to the earl of Southampton. In 1594 he became an actor with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (the King’s Men after 1603) and some of his plays were published in quarto editions; by then maybe he had written "Richard III," "The Comedy of Errors," and "The Taming of the Shrew." Due to the popularity of his plays, the presence of England's best actor Richard Burbage, and the possession of London's best theater, the Globe, the Chamberlain's Men became the nation's leading acting troupe. By 1596, the company had performed "Romeo and Juliet," "Richard II," and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

  2. In 1597 he bought a large house in Stratford, and by 1598 his name had become so renowned that it began to appear on the title pages of his published plays. In 1599, in the wake of "Henry V" and the 1st and 2nd parts of "Henry IV," he became a co-owner of the Globe. "Hamlet" was produced early in the 17th century, and "Othello," "King Lear," "Macbeth," and "The Tempest" appeared over the next decade. He was still working as an actor in London as late as 1608. His 154 sonnets were published in 1609, though the were probably written during the 1590s. But that year London was hit hard by the bubonic plague, causing the closure of the theaters for extended periods. Apparently Shakespeare returned to Stratford and wrote little after 1610. His last three plays were collaborations, probably with John Fletcher, his successor as chief writer for the King's Men. No plays are attributed to him after 1613. But, in general, even the dates of his plays are educated guesses (and even their authorship!). The First Folio of his collected plays did not appear until 1623, published by the bookseller William Jaggard, who had earlier published the "The Passionate Pilgrim" as Shakespeare's work, pirated Thomas Heywood's poetry and misattributed it to Shakespeare, and in 1619 had reprinted editions of Shakespeare's plays with false dates and title pages. (Heywood claimed that Shakespeare was "much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknown to him) presumed to make so bold with his name.") Otherwise there are a scattering of legal documents such as deeds, death certificates, and his will. Unfounded stories about him before the 1690s have him poaching deer, joining a group of traveling players, teaching school, serving in the army in the Netherlands.....

  3. A half century after his death the vicar of Stratford claimed that Shakespeare, Michael Drayton, and Ben Jonson "had a merry meeting and, it seems, drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted." That year, 1616, Jonson became England's first poet laureate. He was probably born nine years after Shakespeare, perhaps served as an apprentice bricklayer under his stepfather, served briefly as a soldier in the Netherlands, and then returned to London to write for the theater. Unlike Shakespeare, he was enamored of the classical writers, to the extent that John Dryden claimed, "You track him everywhere in their snow." Jonson was Shakespeare's great professional rival but contributed to the First Folio a glowing tribute to him, "To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare."

    ... Soul of the age!
    The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
    My Shakespeare, rise!...
    Thou art a monument without a tomb,
    And art alive still while thy book doth live
    And we have wits to read and praise to give....
    And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
    From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
    For names; but call forth thund'ring Aeschylus,
    Euripides and Sophocles to us....
    Tri'umph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
    To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
    He was not of an age but for all time!
    ... Look how the father's face
    Lives in his issue, even so the race
    Of Shakespeare's mind and manners brightly shines
    In his well-turned, and true-filed lines;
    In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
    As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
    Sweet Swan of Avon! ....
    Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage
    Or influence, chide or cheer the drooping stage;
    Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
    And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.


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