Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 5. Friday, 4 Jan 1991.
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 91 09:08:11 EST
From: Steve [Urkowitz] <SURCC@CUNYVM>
Subject: 2.0004 The Dark Side of the Sonnets
Comment: Re: SHK 2.0004 The Dark Side of the Sonnets
Dear Biochemical Ken,
Your question helps to show how so much of literary education isolates
modern students from earlier literature. "Those people who could
write in rhyme and sound so elegant, they can't be like us!" Indeed
they were. And like us, they had all these free-floating emotions
and energies, all these same embarrassments and taboos, all these same
ecstasies and violations. The clothing styles certainly were different,
but the dynamics of style-change and the ways style indicated things
like sexual preference or status or engagement in different social
games (just like the ones we play on beaches and in shopping malls and
at weddings) haven't changed all that much.. One of the potentialities
back then as now is the intense affection of an older man for a younger
man. It's one of the biochemical eruptions that the organism is
capable of, and that appears in different manifestations in different
societies. It looks one way in metropolitan Toronto, slightly
different in downtown Ottawa, much different in Rio, and yet otherwise
down the street from me in Greenwich Village.
But these possibilities seem to have been left out of most educational
programs where literature is taught. Instead literature has been
offered as a safe haven for straight-arrow morality, and any text not
supporting the official line gets bounced out of the syllabus.
Shakespeare plays at a lot of the edges, leaping madly into the margins
of experience to throw light on the feelings common to most. He tries
out and stretches the experience of sympathy so we can see the strange
as something closer. Yes. That's a handsome young guy those sonnets
are written to.
Steve Urkowitz SURCC@CUNYVM