COFFEE AND TEA – Chapter Seven – Shakespeare

COFFEE AND TEA – Chapter Seven – Shakespeare

“Good Morning, dearest Isabel! This is Parc des Buttes-Chaumont – it’s a magical spot definitely worthy of a stroll. What are we going to discuss today?

“Shakespeare”

“Literary discussions, dear, are tricky. I think it was Oscar Wilde who once put it that way: “To analyze a work of literature is like eating a delicious and juicy apple, and suddenly starting to take the pieces out of your mouth and examining them.”

“Yes, Ashton. I know it is pretty much an exhausted subject, but I still want to talk about the Bard of Avon.”

“Understood, Isabel. By the way, you look beautiful this morning! Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? No – you are more lovely and more temperate.”

“Thank you, Ashton…”

“Apart from his “sugared sonnets,” we still celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday today, after more than 450 years, (he was a Taurus) because he presented us with the most irrefutable literary talent of all times. Due to his achievements he has remained popular to this very day – in print, on stage or at the movies.

In his most popular sonnet: “My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun” he basically shares that a woman does not have to be exceptionally beautiful to turn him on. In fact, based on the content of his sonnets some scholars have started rumors that he was bisexual.  The Bard addressed 126 of his sonnets to a young man, often called “the Fair Youth.” He’s the one who got compared to a summer’s day. Sex was a crucial element of his works – his language was very sensually evocative and suggestive. Allegedly he had eight children with Mary Arden – and that accounts for proverbial sexuality.

Such lovely drama! Shakespeare has made us laugh and cry, and hope, and sympathize with his characters more than any other playwright in the world – we could say about him that he has really endured the test of time. His characters try hard and wait for long, and cry and die, and fill us with conflicting emotions, even more than the contemporary soap operas, which by the way were called soap operas, for the commercials of the soaps of their sponsors.

But back to Shakespeare! Oddly enough, he had never signed as William Shakespeare. We have not got a single manuscript from him, he could have been struggling with ugly hand-writing, we don’t know that.  But there is a startling number of adaptations, countless productions on stage or film, which makes him a basic figure of English Literature.

When you utter the word Shakespeare what is the first thing that comes in your mind, Isabel?”

“Romeo and Juliet.”

Isn’t that so? Is not it the greatest love story ever told? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” – complains Juliet of her doomed affection. The story of Verona’s star-crossed couple had been popular around Europe for half a century before it inspired Shakespeare. If you happen to sink in Verona’s romance and breathe the air of the misfortunate lovers – be sure to rub the bronze Juliette’s right breast – an odd tradition that no one can explain anymore.

They say Shakespeare’s geniality consists in not being original at all, but being altogether receptive, letting the world flow through his words unobstructed.

If you will, here are some spoilers for Shakespeare’s major works:

Hamlet – everyone dies.

Macbeth – everyone dies.

King Lear – everyone dies.

In Romeo and Juliet – 4 people are stabbed, 1 poisons himself to death and 1 dies of a broken heart. Just like Stephen King put his advice to aspiring writers: “Kill your darlings! Kill your darlings!” For the consolation of the sensitive reader, after Shakespeare had put them to death people turn into ghosts and do not practically disappear.

He added almost 3000 words and phrases to the English language, including “what the dickens,” Shakespeare’s little but fierce ladies have got beautiful names with rich dramatic meanings. The crazy Ophelia’s name means “help” in Greek. The unfortunate Juliet’s name comes from French and means “youthful.” Rosalind is a “pretty rose,” Beatrice is “she, who brings happiness” in Latin, Desdemona is the Greek for “ill-starred.” Cordelia is the Latin for “heart,” the shrewd Katharina’s name is the Greek for “pure”, Miranda means “marvelous” in Latin. Your name Isabel comes from Elizabeth and it means pledged to God.

“Shakespeare and the supernatural?”

“You have witchcraft in your lips.” Shakespeare’s three witches from Macbeth have a striking resemblance to the Greek mythological Fates. The supernatural was prevalent a theme in the Elizabethan age. As far as witches and ghosts were concerned – it was widely accepted that they existed, and the people who scoffed at them were perceived as foolish, or even prone to be cursed. All sorts of people believed in magic. Many people trotted around looking for miraculous potions or spells to make other people fall in love with them.”

“Shakespeare and love?”

“If music be the food of love, play on…”

“Shakespeare looks like the habitually enamored, one of the lucky people who are completely in love the entire time. At least, he was intensely romantic, he seems to see the true beauty in women. We, readers, are prone to believing  Shakespeare invented being in love or at least the brilliant emotional writing about this condition. Will believed that love will last eternally, he explored what real love is.  

Human life is temporary, Isabel, but poetry is forever. Besides the Holy Bible, Shakespeare is nowadays the most quoted author in the English language.  Now he is dead, but his works live on.

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