Shakespeare's Sonnets

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.466  Monday, 12 October 2015


[1] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 10, 2015 at 10:22:19 AM EDT

     Subject:    Sonnets 


[2] From:        Ian Steere <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 10, 2015 at 11:55:25 AM EDT

     Subject:    Shakespeare's Sonnets 




From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 10, 2015 at 10:22:19 AM EDT

Subject:    Sonnets


I misreported John Rollett’s Sonnet cipher claim. The name ‘Wriothesley’ was “found” in three pieces, WR / IOTH / ESLEY, in the 18 x 8 rectangular configuration; the name Henry is diagonally in the 16 x 9 box. A Net .pdf describes his thinking.


As it happened, ‘Henry’ was noted without looking for it, as one of three sensible spellings in the boxes. The surname came to mind after that, and was looked for.


My apologies, for more than one reason.


Gerald E. Downs



From:        Ian Steere <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 10, 2015 at 11:55:25 AM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare's Sonnets


The repeated introduction of examples which are irrelevant to a theory comparison is pointless in that context. No one disputes that, in creating the Sonnets, Shakespeare often drew on the works of others. However, this practice applies as naturally to a scenario in which the poet sought privately to impress a patron as it does to Jim Carroll’s preference of an authorized publication of the poems.


Irrelevant examples apart (SHAKSPER, 9 October), Jim relies purely on Foster’s key assumptions to advance the theory he prefers. A drunken compositor’s botch happened to alight on that small fragment of Thorpe’s address, which was also its most important - but Thorpe didn’t care, even though the address was intended to be a tribute to Shakespeare.


Jim says “Identifying ‘W.H.’ with someone other than Shakespeare simply makes no logical sense”. Yet he has not addressed any of the evidence of, and logic for, the Wriothesley-as-muse theory, made available to him in this thread. Until he does so, he is not entitled to dismiss the argument. It deals logically with all the issues which he has raised. It suffers from none of the drawbacks of his preferred theory: no ignoring of certain themes in the sonnets (whose parallels with unusual history are just as impressive as those with other works); no ignoring of an unprecedented level of printed homo-eroticism; and no need to assume misprints and reasons for Shakespeare’s unusual absence from the autography of the prefatory material.     


Jerry Downs (SHAKSPER, 9 October) continues to focus on Thorpe’s address in isolation (which means that he can avoid looking at the evidence for a wider theory of the sonnets, even where relevant - but this disqualifies him from opining, as he does, on the adequacy of that evidence). He invokes some content of the sonnets to further his analysis of the address, but ignores other. He assumes that, for the word “begetter”, Thorpe intended a meaning: (i) which appears nowhere in the surviving parlance of the time and (ii) whose invention was unnecessary. By contrast, I provided an interpretation, which I say is consistent with the parlance of the time and all that was printed in, and adjacent to, the address. Will he (and - since this relates in part to some of my comments above - Jim) please show us where this is not the case? Here it is again:


I - the well-meaning entrepreneur - in

arranging their printing wish all happiness

to the sole instigator of this resultant book of poems

Mr WH and that the venture delivers the immortality

promised by our famous and never-to-be-forgotten poet


Once we have passed this hurdle, we will be in a position to progress our discussion as to who of W.Hall, W.Hervey and W.Shakespeare best fits the characterization of “Mr. W.H.”.  




A Facelift for Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.465  Monday, 12 October 2015


[1] From:        Carl Fortunato <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 9, 2015 at 1:04:19 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Facelift 


[2] From:        Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 9, 2015 at 4:08:05 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER:  Facelift 


[3] From:        Sarah Enloe      <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         Friday, October 9, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Subject:    American Shakespeare Center Director of Mission’s Response to the Shakespeare Translation Project 




From:        Carl Fortunato <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 9, 2015 at 1:04:19 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Facelift


From:        Terry Tamminen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>


The effort by the OSF to “translate” the works in the first place, suggesting this hasn’t been done already. If you prefer your Shakespeare “modernized”, could there be any better versions than those completed in 1984 by A.L. Rowse


That’s what I was wondering about.  If you’ve ever acted Shakespeare, there are always one or two actors with “No Fear Shakespeare” - which is a series of “translations” of Shakespeare side by side with the text.  This already exists.


Of course, there’s also something that seems absurd about “translating” Modern English into Modern English.  Shakespeare isn’t Chaucer.


Carl Fortunato



From:        Robert Projansky <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 9, 2015 at 4:08:05 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER:  Facelift


The more I think about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s ‘translation’ project the more it infuriates me. For reasons I do not understand, people who don’t much care about Shakespeare seem to get their nasty paws on the levers of power where Shakespeare is produced and then use that power to spin gold into dross.  Such louts are the artistic equivalent of the current temple-smashers in the Middle East.


And it isn’t just about what the words ‘mean’. What’s wrong with their ‘translation’ is something more fundamental. Shakespeare’s plays are 75% verse and this assault would take his poetry itself from his work. Any changes other than the tiniest tweaks raise hell with Shakespeare’s intentions, with his verse. Let me illustrate with just that five-line example, the handiwork of one Conrad Spoke, proffered by Professor McWhorter (how Shakespearean that name) in his Wall Street Journal article. I’ve marked Spoke’s editing. First, Shakespeare:


Besides, this Duncan 

Hath borne  his faculties so meek, hath been 

So  clear in his great office, that his virtues 

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against 

The deep damnation of his  taking -off.


Now Conrad Spoke's “revolutionary 10% translation”:


Besides, this Duncan 

Hath borne authority so meek, hath been 

So pure in his great office, that his virtues 

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against 

The deep damnation of his knocking-off.


Spoke has changed only four words in these five lines. Pleased with himself and proud of his work, he has no clue that he has crapped up something he obviously does not understand. Into these few lines WS wove three assonance schemes and an alliteration. With his unnecessary ‘translation’ Spoke has killed or wounded all four of them. 


The assonance:

1 HATH     FACulty     HATH

2 MEEK     BEEN      CLEAR     PLEAD     DEEP

3 greAt    Angels     agAinst     damnAtion     tAking-off


The alliteration:

Trumpet-Tongued      Taking-off


I’ve highlighted these things below. Again, Shakespeare first, then his assailant:


Besides, this Duncan 

HATH borne his FACulties so MEEK, HATH BEEN 

So CLEAR in his greAt office, that his virtues 

Will PLEAD like Angels, Trumpet-Tongued, agAinst 

The DEEP damnAtion of his TAking-off.

And the Spoke edition:


Besides, this Duncan 

HATH borne authority so MEEK, HATH BEEN 

So pure in his greAt office, that his virtues 

Will PLEAD like Angels, Trumpet-Tongued, agAinst 

The DEEP damnAtion of his knocking-off.


By substituting ‘pure’ for ‘clear’ in line 3 Spoke kills the EE assonance, which now re-starts in the next line, so instead of the steady, powerful build of five EEs in four lines, Spoke has two separate sets of two each, depriving us of Shakespeare’s intended effect. 


In the first full line, substituting ‘authority’ for ‘his faculties’ (apparently hopelessly complex to Spoke) thoroughly trashes that line’s short-A assonance.


Although ’taking off’ in the last line is too opaque for Mr. Spoke, it really is common enough usage today, but even if it weren’t, what imbecile can’t figure out what it means? As jarring as ‘knocking-off’ reads in Macbeth, it’s even worse for the verse. Both the long-A assonance and the T-alliteration culminate powerfully in ‘taking-off’, but in Spoke’s version both build up to a fizzle, for ‘knocking-off’ is poetically unconnected to anything else in the speech.


Shakespeare wrote these things in this speech to produce the effects that he wanted. Different sounds in the language carry different emotional freight. The long E, for example, is particularly intense; in Much Ado that repeated long-I in Leonato’s speech after Hero’s swoon makes for one long wail. WS wrote this stuff to be played and heard (which is why both versions here should be read aloud), but that doesn’t mean a thing to Spoke. He can do as he pleases to Shakespeare’s play, since Shakespeare, for all his genius, can’t defend it from him. Spoke may think he's a Shakespeare fan, but he is as ignorant as mud about the verse, and for the life of me I cannot understand how such ignorance can impel a man to dare to attempt to rewrite the greatest stuff ever written in the English language. I like opera, about which I am mainly ignorant, but I can’t imagine how my ignorance could possibly make me want to monkey with any of it. 


It’s one thing for a fan to be dazzled by Shakespeare’s verse without knowing why and how it is so effective, but theater professionals should have some passing acquaintance with Shakespeare’s verse technique. Any theater director or producer who buys into this translation nonsense, this theatrical fool’s gold, is too ignorant about Shakespeare’s verse or doesn't care about it, and is ipso facto admitting, it seems to me, that he is incompetent to put on a Shakespeare show, much less run a company. 


Bob Projansky



From:        Sarah Enloe <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Friday, October 9, 2015 at 3:43 PM

Subject:    American Shakespeare Center Director of Mission’s Response to the Shakespeare Translation Project


As most Shakespeare nerds know by now, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, America’s largest Shakespeare theatre, has undertaken an ambitious project they are calling “Play On!” in which 36 playwrights and 36 dramaturges will undertake to “translate” 36 of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English. This announcement has provoked the predictable amount of consternation throughout the Shakespeare world, enough consternation that as the Director of Mission of the American Shakespeare Center, whose mission is to recover the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity… through performance and education, I would like to share my thoughts on this project, both positive and negative, with our many friends.


Here’s what I like about the project:


(1) To begin with, I applaud the size, scope, and ambition of the project.


Ever since Bill Rauch, OSF’s Artistic Director, arrived in Ashland in 2007, he has brought to the Festival the kind of expansive vision of a theatre of the people, by the people, and for the people. That vision undergirded his first project, Cornerstone Theatre, in which Bill and his colleagues, fresh out of Harvard, would go into communities without theatres and create a production with the citizens. That vision – so American in its principles and in its optimism – was also the foundation for his first big project at OSF, American Revolutions: the U.S. History Cycle, for which he has commissioned American playwrights to attempt to create a collection of plays that helps define America in the way that Shakespeare’s history plays helped to define England. One offspring of that project, Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way about LBJ and the civil rights movement, has already won the Tony for Outstanding Play.


The “Play On!” project matches Bill Rauch’s other work, and in its intention to create Shakespeare scripts of the people, by the people, and for the people, it matches as well the giving and inclusiveness that informs OSF under his remarkable leadership. To appreciate what he has accomplished, locate Ashland, Oregon, on a map, and you will see that it’s a small city (Staunton’s size) in the isolated southwest corner of Oregon, five hours from Portland. Always devoted to first-class work, the Festival’s location trapped it more than most urban Shakespeare companies in the predominant Shakespeare audience base of affluent and aging white people – a place to get away from the world rather than a place to engage it. I do not know how their new programming has changed their audience demographics, but the increased diversity of the actors and staff at OSF and the emphasis on musicals and new plays have certainly made the season’s offerings look less daunting to non-Shakespeare fans as well as more interesting to experienced theatre-goers who are looking for something new and would rather not see their tenth production of Macbeth.


(2) Some good that will come from the “Play On!” project.


Already it has prompted the kind of controversy that keeps the importance of Shakespeare in the public view. It’s made people think about their experiences seeing and hearing Shakespeare. It’s giving employment to 36 playwrights and – even more rarely – a like number of dramaturges. And that means, inevitably, that by the end of the project, 72 very smart people, who have wrestled with replacing Shakespeare’s words (as our actors do when they try to paraphrase their lines) will be in awe of his skill, and they will approach their crafts both with more humility and with more skill.


I hope that once the scripts are all in, OSF will plan a grand convocation of these men and women to talk about their experience of trying to retain, in the words of OSF’s Director of Literary Development Lue Douthit, “the rhyme, meter, rhetoric, image, metaphor, character, action, and theme” of the original. Lue, if you’re reading this, please invite me to that occasion. I promise not to say a word, just soak in the inevitable awe these re-creators will feel faced with what Andrew Hartley, in the answering question “Why Shakespeare?” (The Shakespeare Dramaturg, p.70), calls the “unequaled…poignancy or precision” of Shakespeare’s words and phrases “unparalleled elsewhere.” Our actors feel it every time they play a role; our students feel it every time they study a line. Imagine what 36 playwrights and 36 dramaturges will feel after trying to put an entire play into their own words.


(3) Clearly this project does no harm to Shakespeare, even in Ashland.


OSF assures fans of Shakespeare that over the next ten years they will produce all of Shakespeare’s plays in the original and that “one or more of” the plays created “may be produced along with the original canon.” These scripts will be food for readings and discussion around the country. Shakespeare’s works have always stood up to the “translation” – in a real sense, every production is a new “translation.” Changing words, characters, scenes, plots – none of that is new. Whenever I direct a production, I’ll change a word or twenty. In our current production of Midsummer Night’s Dream “on her withered dewlap” became “on her withered bosom”; and the fairies’ lullaby to Titania about “spotted snakes” became a soft shoe version of “By the Light of Silvery Moon.” Am I ashamed? Kind of. Is Shakespeare rolling in his grave? No seismic activity in Stratford-upon-Avon has been reported.


As our board member Kim West pointed out, this kind of “translation has been going on since Nahum Tate updated King Lear in 1681. Who knows how many Nahum Tates the project might produce? In one way or another every play is only the first version of a work, changed with each production; and all of this reworking of Shakespeare in whatever language, in whatever medium, from musicals to film to comic books to TV sitcoms to Andy Griffith’s radio retelling of Romeo and Juliet, never lessened the value of his work – all of this has only given the originals more currency.


Here’s what I don’t like about the project:


(1) The OSF project assumes that Shakespeare’s language is not our language.


The rationale for the project is that Shakespeare’s language is hard to understand because his language is too far from our own and that audiences of a far wider range would enjoy the plays better if they were written in contemporary language. I don’t like this rationale, because I think the assumption it makes about Shakespeare’s language is wrong and the assumption it makes about what audiences are capable of enjoying underestimates audiences, actors, and the nature of theatre.


Yes, we could all use larger vocabularies, but if you’re going to start simplifying language to reach those who don’t have a large enough vocabulary, then don’t pick on Shakespeare without picking on Shaw, Wilde, Coward, Williams, Churchill, Stoppard, and Sondheim. For that matter go after DeadwoodWest WingJustifiedGame of Thrones, and Star Trek. Shoot, go after Sesame Street.


The Wall Street Journal’s John McWhorter approves wholeheartedly of the project and tells us that 10% of the words in Shakespeare are “incomprehensible.” That number vastly exaggerates the number of archaic words in Shakespeare and ignores altogether the way context – the other words being spoken and the way the actor speaks them – helps us comprehend. In fact, 98% of Shakespeare’s words are either in our dictionaries as current usage English or as a close cousin of the current English.


(2) The OSF project robs from rather than adds to the meaning of the plays.


It ignores the pleasure of the unconscious experience of comprehending expanded meaning. For example, here’s a passage from Macbeth that McWhorter wants updated. It’s Macbeth considering whether he should kill the King, Duncan:


………………………Besides, this Duncan

hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

so clear in his great office, that his virtues

will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

the deep damnation of his taking-off.


McWhorter prefers this “translation” by Conrad Spoke:


………………Besides, this Duncan

hath borne authority so meek, hath been

so pure in his great office, that his virtues

will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

the deep damnation of his knocking-off.


McWhorter would substitute “authority” for “faculties” because he says he doesn’t know what “bearing one’s faculties” means. He doesn’t? Today we use “faculties” to mean “abilities,” – the very first definition in Merriam Webster – and pretty precisely what Shakespeare meant. In fact the substituted “authority” is not what Macbeth is talking about. Nor is the substituted “pure in office” the same as the original “clear in his office.” Jimmy Carter was “pure” in his office; Ronald Reagan was “clear.” Shakespeare’s “clear” could hardly be clearer.


Most alarmingly, McWhorter champions “knocking-off” for “taking-off.” He would choose a current slang word for “murder” instead of Macbeth’s invented phrase “taking-off.” But even children listening to Macbeth contemplate this murder would know what “taking-off” means, andthey would also know – as would the actor playing the part – that it’s a feeble euphemism, that Macbeth can’t bring himself even to say “murder,” and that is the real story of this moment. The actor performing the “translated” line would lose this moment, and the audiences listening to that “translation” would lose this insight into the mind of a man for the first time considering the murder. Shakespeare’s word – easy to comprehend in context – provides the full understanding, whereas in McWhorter’s term the substituted word gives us only a “half understanding.”


(3) The OSF project ignores the joy of acquiring language.


We go to Shakespeare better quipped with the language that Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights left us than his own audiences, audiences who went to the theatre to hear that language invented for the first time. The theatre is where people – literate and illiterate – went to learn new words by having them performed by actors who can show you their meanings. In short they went in search of new words and of old words being stretched to new limits.


We do that too – with Stoppard and Pinter and Beckett plays; with comedians Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, and Stephen Colbert; with television like Key and Peele and Wired, with lyricists from Sondheim to Notorious B.I.G. Even when some of it flies by us, we enjoy the rush of new words in new arrangements.


(5) The OSF project endorses ShakesFear.


We go to Shakespeare unnecessarily afraid, worried about missing something, worried about vocabulary as though we were taking the SAT. That irrational and unhelpful worry I call ShakesFear, and my main objection to the OSF project is that it endorses ShakesFear, and in doing so it misunderstands the nature of theatre and underestimates the genius of audiences. It promotes the anxiety about Shakespeare that is a primary obstacle to its enjoyment.


(6) The OSF project takes actors and directors off the hook.


“Play On!” shifts the responsibility for “comprehensible” Shakespeare to these 36 playwrights and away from actors and directors who themselves are uninterested in the way the language in the plays work.


Actors who don’t know precisely what the words are can’t make up the difference with an emotional wash, and directors whose aim is foremost the imposition of a concept can sometimes make comprehension harder. As James Shapiro writes in The New York Times, “To understand Shakespeare’s characters, actors have long depended on the hints of meaning and shadings of emphasis that he embedded in his verse. They will search for them in vain in the translation.”


From the day Jim Warren and I started the company, the American Shakespeare Center has made the comprehension of Shakespeare’s language and an understanding of the way the meter and the syntax work the first business of rehearsal. We are continually looking for the ways that staging can clarify meaning for his audiences. We don’t always get it right in our fight against ShakesFear, but repeatedly we hear from audiences, “That was the first time I had no trouble understanding the play” or “I forgot it was Shakespeare” or – our favorite – “That was great. Who translated it into modern English?” And then we get to tell the patron that the words were Shakespeare’s and that he himself effortlessly did the “translation.”


The greatest gift of a good Shakespeare production is this kind of unconscious “translation” – an occasion when performance combines with the wellspring of our language to enlarge us.


(7) The OSF project condescends to certain audiences.


My final concern about the OSF project is the soft discrimination of its low expectations. As I have said, the plan is meant to be a part of OSF’s admirable push to make Shakespeare of the people, by the people, and for the people. But those people are less in need of help than OSF imagines. Children are always swimming in a sea of new language; it’s how they learn. For an adult, Much Ado about Nothing may be harder than The Important of Being Earnest, but for the eight-year-old, they present similar challenges – or, depending on your point of view, opportunities. The OSF project would deprive the very audiences it’s concerned about of those opportunities by creating a kind of “separate but equal” Shakespeare.


OSF’s project, in worrying about making Shakespeare easier, endorses the wrong idea that Shakespeare is too hard. But it is just the right kind of hard. In the words of our Associate Artistic Director, Jay McClure, “Shakespeare is not easy; it is not neat, it is not without complications; it is not always understandable. Just like life. And just like life, it is miraculous. And it is work. And it is worth it.”


As I said at the start, the OSF project has done all of us a favor by raising the issue of how we deal with the rich gift of Shakespeare. First thing we do, let’s not underrate it.


Ralph Alan Cohen

ASC Co-founder and Director of Mission

American Shakespeare Center


The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joy and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.





The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.464  Monday, 12 October 2015


[1] From:        Marianne Kimura <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 10, 2015 at 12:25:43 AM EDT

     Subject:    Response to "Coldplay"


[2] From:        Julia Griffin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 11, 2015 at 2:15:19 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Coldplay 




From:        Marianne Kimura <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 10, 2015 at 12:25:43 AM EDT

Subject:    Response to "Coldplay"


On JD Markel’s idea linking “Romeo and Juliet” and Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars”, I’d like to comment that musicians, poets and other artists have often used the cosmic beauty of the sun, sky and stars as inspiration. It is no accident: Apollo is the Greek god of music as well as the sun! 


Especially pop music often highlights this beauty. “Fireflies” by Owl City starts “you would not believe your eyes if 10 million fireflies lit up the world as I fell asleep” and continues on with “I’d like to make myself believe that Planet Earth turns slowly” and “..a disco ball is just hanging by a thread”. Here, thinly veiled, is the night sky and all the stars (“fireflies”), the bright “disco ball” is surely the sun. Or how about Madonna’s “Celebrate”, about a “ holiday” and which repeats “day” over and over, inscribing seasonal (tied to the sun) festival…a celebration “all across the world”? The climax of Elton John’s “Your song” is “but the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song, it’s for people like you that keep it turned on”, the image of bright sunlight highlights the narrator’s love. Or how about “Sister Golden Hair” by America, written in 1975 in the wake of the oil shock? “I tried to make it Sunday”, the narrator moans, and he wants to get together with this beautiful woman “sister golden hair surprise”, who can only be the sun, but he has “been one poor correspondent, too, too hard to find” (i.e. he has been preoccupied with using fossil fuels), but will she, he wonders “meet him in the AIR?” Or even take Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” the woman (“love em and leave em fast”) who asks “baby, do you have enough gas?” as the narrator cautions she “needs to find a love that’ s gonna last” (i.e. her car and fossil fuel lifestyle is not sustainable) and the image of the car is contrasted with the more natural “horses running wild” of the narrator’s imagination.


But my favorite example (with the image which most matches Juliet) may be Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. The lovely “lady”, associated with the glittering gold and heaven, must be the sun, which provides goods for free even “if the stores are all closed”. All the natural images, the songbirds, the hedgerows, and the folk festival May Queen of the old seasonal festivals are there, not forgetting the “ piper”, the musicians and poets, so in love with the beauty of the sky.


There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for.

Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.


There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure

'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.

In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings,

Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.


Ooh, it makes me wonder,

Ooh, it makes me wonder.


There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,

And my spirit is crying for leaving.

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,

And the voices of those who stand looking.


Ooh, it makes me wonder,

Ooh, it really makes me wonder.


And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune,

Then the piper will lead us to reason.

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,

And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,

It's just a spring clean for the May queen.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There's still time to change the road you're on.

And it makes me wonder.


Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,

The piper's calling you to join him,

Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?


And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul.

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold.

And if you listen very hard

The tune will come to you at last.

When all are one and one is all

To be a rock and not to roll.


And she's buying a stairway to heaven.


Let us think of this woman as Juliet if we like….Juliet is born on “ Lammas Eve” (Lammas was a pagan harvest festival); Juliet says “my bounty is as boundless as the sea” and she is often associated with the sky as well. And Juliet is also associated with “light” like the lady in the song “who shines white light”.


Surely Shakespeare, a popular poet in touch with what is so real for us, knew cosmic beauty too and sang of it often.


Thank you,

Marianne Kimura

Associate Professor

Kyoto Women’s University



From:        Julia Griffin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 11, 2015 at 2:15:19 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Coldplay


Perhaps J.D. Markel is right about the Sky Full of Stars; but the close comparison sure doesn’t do Coldplay any favours, does it . .?


Julia Griffin





From TLS - Tales From Shakespeare: Creative Collisions

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.463  Monday, 12 October 2015


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 11, 2015 at 11:11:23 AM EDT

Subject:    From TLS - Tales From Shakespeare: Creative Collisions


Is there a Higgs boson in the house?

Margreta De Grazia


Graham Holderness

Tales From Shakespeare: 

Creative collisions

245pp. Cambridge University Press. £25 (US $44.99).

978 1 107 07129 2


Published: 12 August 2015


Readers might do well to begin this book at its afterword: an irresistible account of the author’s introduction as a boy to Shakespeare via Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, first published in 1807 and in print ever since. That Graham Holderness’s lifelong engagement with Shakespeare should have begun with the Lambs’ rendering of Shakespeare’s plays into stories is nicely appropriate. In his long and distinguished career, Holderness has been retelling Shakespeare, and in multiple forms: criticism, biography, fiction and poetry, and now, with this book, in a literary category of his own invention. He names it “creative criticism”, and his Tales from Shakespeare puts it into practice.


In each of the book’s four sections, a chapter of critical writing about Shakespeare (researched and argued) is followed by a chapter of fictive writing (invented and fanciful). Each critical chapter puts Shakespeare in contact with some unlikely element: an East India Company journal entry dated 1607; the King James Bible; a run of recent post-9/11 films; and finally a 2005 suicide bombing in Qatar. The encounter between Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare in each critical chapter sparks a fictive spin-off – a fantasy travelogue, a comedy skit, a spy thriller – with the exception of the last, that remains grounded in the hard fact of terrorism.

The first two critical encounters relate Shakespeare to something in his own past. In the first, it is the journal of the captain commissioned by the East India Company to sail around Africa to Java, trading British broadcloth for Eastern spices. It records performances of Hamlet and Richard II aboard ship off the coast of the Portuguese trading outpost of Sierra Leone. In the critical chapter on this conjuncture, Holderness discusses how the possibility that the journal is a forgery (it exists only in two nineteenth-century copies) is overridden by the desire to assign Shakespeare an inaugural part in the history either of British imperial expansion or of global cultural exchange. Holderness’s response is not to debate the diary’s authenticity but rather “to make it into another story”, a travelogue not by the ship’s captain but by an alert young mariner who gradually discovers that the ship’s staging of Richard II is intended not to amuse the crew but rather to promote British trade interests. As in the Essex rebellion, the play, by enacting a king’s deposition, incites insurrection. It introduces the native spectators to the possibility of overthrowing a ruler that in turn clears the way for a successor more hospitable to the British. Thus Holderness finds another way in which the journal entry draws Shakespeare to the forefront of the geopolitical present, in this instance, the all too familiar policy of lending support to ostensibly democratic rulers while professing non-interference.


The second section gratifies a more popular desire: to interrelate the two greatest books in the language, Shakespeare’s Works (1623) and the King James Bible (1611). As always, history can be mined for encouragement – in this instance, from certain overlapping details of the publication and composition of the two folios. But there is further attraction in a nineteenth-century discovery that Shakespeare’s surname is encrypted in Psalm 46 of the King James Bible, evidence (for those who want it) of his participation in its translation. These convergences stimulate a fantasy comedy set at the Pearly Gates, where Shakespeare attempts to offset his many sins (adultery, sodomy, perjury etc) with two good works, one under each arm, claiming to have had a hand in both. Appropriating the work of others might have constituted still another transgression, but when Shakespeare confesses to having invested so much in the creation of his characters that no identity of his own remained, St Peter treats the offending signature as symptomatic of “ontological insecurity”.


The third section slips from the seventeenth century to the present, this time turning to Shakespeare for another need: a hero for our times, in the form not of the reflective prince, but the intransigent soldier. Coriolanus, whose name derives from his single-handed defeat of the Corioli (“alone I fought in your Corioli walls”), serves as model for three post-9/11 films – Ralph Fiennes’s 2011 film adaptation and, less predictably, The Hurt Locker and Skyfall, all three of which focus on a rogue combatant who refuses to play by the rules – of the Roman republic, the US military and MI6 respectively. In the longest of the book’s fictive supplements, Holderness invents still another hero in this mould, Guy Mars (after the Latin Caius Martius), whose proud eccentricity and inborn elitism nearly phase him out of MI6, until he is given an opportunity for one-on-one combat that culminates in a furious cinematic race of two chariots in a Roman hippodrome. It is a gripping page-turner, though only arguably, as Holderness calls it, “the perfect complement of Shakespeare’s Roman drama”.


The catalyst for the last chapter is of a different sort, issuing not from historical hypothesis or cinematic fantasy, but from fact: the recent Islamist bombing of an amateur production of Twelfth Night in Qatar. If the choice after terrorism is either revenge or an attempt at understanding, Holderness opts for the latter and in attempting to understand “the mind of the terrorist” he consults, among others, Genesis, Beowulf, Jean Baudrillard, Kierkegaard, Jacques Derrida, Ian McEwan and several key geopolitical analysts, before he alights on two case studies from Shakespeare: Macbeth and Malvolio. If one accepts his premiss “that Macbeth is himself the Gunpowder Plot”, Holderness’s identification of Macbeth with “the terrorist imagination” becomes more plausible, though the man whose vision of the future consists of a monotonous string of tomorrows decidedly lacks its attendant “apocalyptic scope”.


[ . . . ]







From TLS - GLOBE: Life in Shakespeare’s London

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.462  Monday, 12 October 2015


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 11, 2015 at 11:11:23 AM EDT

Subject:    From TLS - GLOBE: Life in Shakespeare’s London


[Editor’s Note:  I have been catching up on my reading and discovered that in the past few weeks TLS has had a number of Shakespeare and Early Modern reviews. I will provide excepts over the next week or so; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]



Miranda Fay Thomas


Catharine Arnold


Life in Shakespeare’s London

320pp. Simon and Shuster. £16.99.

978 1 4711 2569 0


Published: 12 August 2015


In the year before the 400th anniversary of his death, one cannot be too surprised at the number of new books published about Shakespeare; although there is plenty written about him in any given year. Catharine Arnold’s latest offering, Globe: Life in Shakespeare’s London, gives us a brief history of the three incarnations of the Globe theatre which are now synonymous with Shakespeare’s work: the first construction in 1599; the structure rebuilt after the 1613 fire; and today’s Bankside replica. Arnold aims to give us a lively account of London as a theatrical city with Shakespeare at its heart. Despite her clear enthusiasm for the subject, however, Globe adds little to the conversation.


Arnold writes with vibrancy and is wholly persuasive about the importance of Shakespeare’s age. Her engaging style is, in many ways, ideal for a general readership. But this is marred by a lack of solid research, as evidenced by some of the book’s half-baked theories and unchecked facts. Her imagined account of Shakespeare’s first trip to London also raises problems: her novelistic details, though evocative, undermine what ought to be rigorous historical scholarship, and it is often left to the reader to decide what is fact and what is fiction.


The question of whether or not we need another popular history book about Shakespeare could be easily countered if this publication drew on new material, and yet Globe is over reliant on old sources. The repeated citations of C. C. Stopes’s Burbage and Shakespeare’s Stage (1913) account for nearly one in five of her references, and it is disappointing that Arnold does not devote more time to recent scholarship. The same tired anecdotes about Elizabethan theatre life are reiterated: Shakespeare leaping into bed with a woman who fancied Burbage as Richard III; the man whose breeches caught fire at the Globe and doused himself with a nearby pot of ale. While some attempts are made to question traditional readings, this is done inconsistently.


The biggest problem with Globe, though, is its continuing hagiography of Shakespeare as a dramatist who never writes two-dimensional characters, at the expense of presenting any kind of original critique. It seems to me a bizarre irony that those who tend to say that Shakespeare is “for all time” also tend to be entirely reductive in their approach to his work.




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