Archive for the Shakespeareana Category

Did William Shakespeare Write Science Fiction?

Posted in Shakespeareana with tags , , , , , on 2014/01/30 by mattermind


Ok, ok, the headline is a wee bit sensational.  Or I should say, overdramatic.  But I’m only echoing this from the Telegraph UK:

William Shakespeare, the ‘king of infinite space’
 Was the Bard a science-fiction writer 200 years before Mary Shelley?


Now to understand their point, you really need to read the article in full, which can be found HERE.

Essentially, the idea is not that Shakespeare wrote short stories about rocket ships, space colonies or warps in the space-time continuum.  So relax, fanboys.  You won’t have to read your comic books in iambic pentameter.

Nor will you have to confront this eyeball-searing image of Sean Connery, who hopefully learned his lesson:

My eyes!  My eyes!

My eyes! My eyes!

Shakespeare’s works are currently being re-evaluated specifically for their science content, to discover how ideas from his age’s cutting-edge thinkers and dreamers may have found their way into the texts.  Yes, the plays you already know and love.

If true, then, that would make Shakespeare a master of inner space, social space and outer (physical) space.  William S. –  space cadet and pioneering “space” explorer.

Don’t just take my word for it.  Read the article yourself.

A few paragraphs from the story to whet your appetite:

The genius from Stratford-upon-Avon has worn many hats over the years, with imaginative scholars casting him as a closet Catholic, a mainstream Protestant, an ardent capitalist, a Marxist, a misogynist, a feminist, a homosexual, a legal clerk and a cannabis dealer – yet the words “Shakespeare” and “science” are rarely uttered in the same breath.

 A surprise, perhaps, given that he was producing his greatest work just as new ideas about the human body, the Earth and the universe were transforming Western thought. But a re-evaluation is on the horizon. Scholars are examining Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time – what he knew, when he knew it, and how that knowledge might be reflected in his work.


Why Is Shakespeare Called the Bard?

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2014/01/25 by mattermind

I searched the internet for a satisfying answer to that question and this is the best that I found.

It comes from No Sweat Shakespeare and may be read in full HERE.

An excerpt:

The word is very old and referred, originally, to a poet generally, especially one who wrote impassioned, lyrical, or epic verse. Bards were originally Celtic composers of eulogy and satire; the word came to mean more generally a tribal poet-singer gifted in composing and reciting verses on heroes and their deeds. As early as the 1st century AD, the Latin author Lucan, referred to bards as the national poets or minstrels of Gaul and Britain.

The word ‘bard’ has lost its original meaning, although we might use it ironically to refer to a friend or local person who writes poems. In present-day usage the term ‘bard’ has become synonymous with a revered poet. Given the reverence in which Shakespeare is held worldwide, and given that the original bard’s tale was of great deeds, great events, and the great themes of heroism, love, war and death, it seems indisputable that Shakespeare is entitled to the name.

Shakespeare & the King James Bible

Posted in Context, Language, Shakespeareana with tags , , on 2014/01/19 by mattermind

King James


Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Christian Bible knows that there has never been a translation yet that surpassed the King James.

What nobody ever mentions – and something I had never before considered – is that the KJV Bible was created and produced at the very pinnacle of Shakespeare’s career. Not by him, of course. Though there are legends about his alleged involvement.

But how many people, when they praise the unmatched linguistic beauty of that bible, know it sprang from the very same time and place as Shakespeare?

This is from Wikipedia:

The King James Version (KJV), commonly known as the Authorized Version (AV) or King James Bible (KJB), is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England begun in 1604 and completed in 1611.

Now that I know this, it makes me wonder how much of Shakespeare’s eloquence was “in the air” during that momentous decade of literary achievement… not to take anything away from him, but rather to better understand the context of early 17th century England.

UPDATE: Thanks to Karla Tipton for alerting me to a documentary called The Story of English. The following is an excerpt from episode 3 titled “Muse of Fire” dealing specifically with the English language around Shakespeare’s time:

The documentary in its entirety may be viewed HERE.

Who knows how destiny ultimately works, or why certain people happen to be born at just the right moment in time. Such questions are not mere idle speculation. Famous authors and philosophers such as Hegel and Leo Tolstoy famously pondered whether great individuals make history or whether history makes great individuals.

It’s fun (and unnerving) to consider such possibilities as: had William Shakespeare never been born, would history have invented somebody else just like him? Or: if William Shakespeare had written in any other age, how would his work have sounded?

With the coincidence of Shakespeare’s career high point occurring exactly during production of the King James Bible, it’s tempting to imagine that Shakespeare had a hand in the KJV. And it turns out that such legends exist.

From Wikipedia:

For several decades a popular rumor has persisted that William Shakespeare placed his mark on the translated text of Psalm 46 that appears in the King James Bible, although scholars view this as unlikely. By coincidence, the 46th word from the beginning of Psalm 46 is “shake” and the 46th word from the end (omitting the liturgical mark “Selah”) is “spear”. Shakespeare was in King James’ service during the preparation of the King James Bible, and he was 46 years old in 1611 when the translation was completed.

I need to investigate further. But now and forevermore, Shakespeare and the King James Bible will be linked together in my head and heart, if only by a bizarre coincidence of time and space.

In a related note, I do not believe in coincidence!

Looking for Shakespeare

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2014/01/18 by mattermind

Shakespeare: the Biography, Chapters 1-6

Will in the World, Chapter 1

This year, I plan to read at least three notable biographies of Shakespeare: Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare: the Biography by Peter Ackroyd and Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.  I have divided them up into 12 months of reading so that I will have new discoveries to make at each and every stage along the way.

This month’s word is SPECULATIVE, often used both to describe and to deride most Shakespeare biographies.  For what else can a book be but speculative that purports to tell the life of a man we know so little about?  If only the bare “facts” about William Shakespeare were published, they would make for a slim volume indeed.

I have only just begun my journey through these two biographies, so it would not be fair to either author to attempt what might generously be called a book “review.”  I can say they pair well together, since Ackroyd tends to interpolate Shakespeare from the facts and from details in the writing, while Greenblatt sets his imagination free to try and recreate the world Shakespeare might have encountered based upon the cultural context of the historical period.  One gets at the man through the writing; the other the writing through the man.

Ackroyd, for example, has told me much more about Shakespeare’s genealogy, economic background, family life, and social setting.  He has proposed that John Shakespeare, William’s father, was a much better businessman and far more successful than we give him credit for.  He also argues that Mary Arden, William’s mother, was strong and capable, exercising a huge influence on his later tendency to create bold, saucy, assertive and independent women.

I was much moved by Ackroyd’s argument that the proof of Shakespeare’s Stratford origins can be found within the plays, through descriptions of the landscape, the flora and fauna, the forest, the countryside, the birds, the seasonal changes, his knowledge of village habits and customs – and, most notably, certain careers like a glover, that of his father.

Before beginning these biographies, I gave much credence to the suggestion that Shakespeare must have come from the upper class, that he would have needed court access or at least a university education to acquire his knowledge of history, mythology and the workings of the social world.  But now I find myself swayed by the centrality of Shakespeare’s standing, that his middle-class background placed him in the perfect position to learn not only about kings, queens and the upper crust, but about butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.  In the end, it’s Shakespeare’s versatility, his ability to render a prince or a pauper, a witch, a wench, a friar, an ass that sets him apart as the genius we know him to be.  Not just up the ladder, but down to the very bottom.

Greenblatt and Ackroyd both establish that Shakespeare would not have been as limited in Stratford as we commonly think.  The King’s School, which he attended, gave him a solid grounding in Latin.  Like anybody with even the rudiments of education, he would have known his Bible.  And Greenblatt goes to great lengths to show that Shakespeare would have had ample opportunity to have been exposed to the theater, even at an early age, by the troupes that traveled from town to town.

I especially took note of Greenblatt’s descriptions of the morality plays that were in vogue up until the late 16th century, how Shakespeare may have borrowed and adapted their scope into his own writing.

Indeed, both these works speculate much.  But in taking such a risk, straying from the known into the what-may-have-been, they open a wider world of possibilities than are normally addressed when talking about Shakespeare close to the vest.  Maybe, when measured by actual facts that might never be known, some of what they venture would turn out to be false.  But considering what we have, the conjectures that they offer present a Shakespeare who becomes plausible and three-dimensional and very much alive in my imagination.  it certainly seems that much of what they are describing is true. 

At the very least, they have me reading, learning and wondering more about Shakespeare’s world than I ever dreamed possible. I’ll let you know more as the year unfolds.

Both books are highly recommended.

450 Years of Shakespeare

Posted in Celebrations, Shakespeareana with tags , , , , on 2014/01/07 by mattermind

Restored Globe

Reconstructed Globe Theater – Image from the Herald Sun (Link below)

2014 is an auspicious year for any Shakespeare blog, this being the 450th anniversary of the Bard’s birth in 1564.  Celebrations will commence all over the world around April.  Check your local listings for events in your area.

William Shakespeare may have been born and died in England, but his works are a global phenomenon encompassing the breadth and depth of the human spirit – and with it the entire world.  People everywhere will want to join in on the festivities.

NOTE: I will continually update the blog as I become aware of new events.  For now, here are a few links to get you started:







These, naturally, are but a few examples.

Keep in mind that both 2014 and 2016 will each mark anniversaries in the life of Shakespeare, with 2014 being the 450th year after his birth and 2016 the 400th since his death.

In a way, the whole three-year span will be filled with news, notes and celebrations of some kind; that is, a step beyond the usual.  I wlll be alerting you and posting links as I come across them.

Some readers may assume that I planned this oh-so-well.  But, alas, I deserve no feather in my cap since you can clearly see that I first attempted this blog in 2010, subsequently aborting it for various personal reasons.

My stated goal here is to begin anew the project I had started, this time bringing it to a rightful and fitting conclusion.  Once the cycle is finished, a future reader may climb aboard at any time that personally suits them and design a year-long program of their own.  In theory, you shall have myself and any comments to accompany you.

For that to happen, of course, the job at hand must be accomplished. There is much work to be done!

My reward/incentive will be a literary tour of the UK in 2016 (knock on wood), spanning from mid April in Stratford through mid June in Dublin so I can be on hand for Bloomsday.  Heady times, indeed.

In the meantime, I have only finished Othello, but have added an extra week in order to reread it and watch as many of the movie adaptations as I can.  At the top of my list are the versions with Orson Welles, Lawrence Olivier — and the opera starring Placido Domingo.

For those of you keeping score at home, I am reading the No Fear Shakespeare translation of Othello this time round, a text with both the original on one side and a modern language “update” on the other, mostly to disentangle certain thorny passages that confounded me upon first try.

Footnotes, unfortunately, have been of little or no help.  Since I am a bear of little brain (from the Tao of Pooh), I am going to employ the handy dandy text that you can see for yourself HERE.

As for the “translations” themselves, more on that as I break down the relevant passages over the next few days.

The Healing Power of Shakespeare

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2010/04/19 by mattermind

In my quest for all things Shakespeare, I occasionally stumble upon news or sidebars that I hope will be of interest to readers out there in the blogosphere who may have found their way here by a random google search.  It’s a bit like retweeting, I guess, since I’m not the one coming up with this content, but merely passing word of it along .

The Guardian UK has posted just such a story that demands as big an audience as it can draw.  Ostensibly about a Shakespearean treasure hunt, it is really about a whole lot more.

When Patrick and Patricia Padget lost their son in a horrific pub incident, their whole world came crashing down.  Remarkably, they found inspiration to carry on with their lives through art, which they are now sharing with the rest of the world.

It’s a tremendous story that you’ll want to read by clicking the link above.

Enquiring Minds Want to Know…

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2010/03/11 by mattermind

— about Shakespeare’s later life.

Apparently there are stones still left unturned (alas, I didn’t believe it either) in the quest to discover everything there is to find out about the guy who either was or wasn’t the Shakespeare we love.

Intrepid archeologists are ready to break ground in New Place, the home Shakespeare owned and lived in for the last 19 years of his life.  The details are a bit icky for those who don’t enjoy trolling through trashcans — let alone septic tanks — for clues to the neighbors’ secret habits, but I suppose the tolerance for this kind of thing depends upon whom you’re investigating.

A well clogged with period organic matter may sound like a trove to some, but I’ll just wait for the gossipy good news to be reported later, thanks.  I’m sure the effort will be worth it.  But learning what the Shakespeares had for dinner or hacked up in a hankie is not my calling by a longshot.

God bless the division of labor in a market economy!


Shakespeare Likeness to Tour Britain

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2010/02/18 by mattermind

No reaction yet from the Edward de Vere camp regarding the news.


LONDON.- One of the National Portrait Gallery‘s most important possessions – the ‘Chandos’ portrait of William Shakespeare – is to tour Britain for the first time since it was acquired by the Gallery as part of a major exhibition of writers’ portraits.

The work will be the centrepiece of an exhibition, Writers of Influence: Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, displaying 61 of the Gallery’s most important literary portraits…

Here is the Chandos portrait:

Which, as we know, is now being challenged by a newer version of the Bard that puts him in a more dashing light:

More fuel for the conspiracy fires, I suppose.

Another Shakespeare Contender Emerges

Posted in Shakespeareana with tags , , , , , , , on 2010/02/15 by mattermind

Fulke Greville

The Spy with the Effeminate Doily

With so much scholarship already being done — and reported on — the boggy authorship question, I’m reluctant to wade into the “Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare?” quagmire here. Until more clarity emerges, the competing bids only serve to befuddle a curious bystander like me.

Still, I can’t help but be fascinated when yet another story surfaces promising to shed light on the subject. This instance suggests that the tomb of Fulke Greville may provide missing clues from crucial period manuscripts.  SOURCE

St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, England, contains a tomb that parishioners believe may contain clues about Shakespeare’s work. The church was built by Fulke Greville, a “prominent 17th-century nobleman, … scholar, soldier, statesman,” spy, writer and Shakespeare contemporary who “some believe is the true author of several of the Bard’s works” according to the Daily Telegraph.

Manorhouse Letters

Posted in Shakespeareana on 2010/02/01 by mattermind

This image was captured from Phil Selby’s humor blog.  I only googled it for the articles. (