Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Shakespeare married when he was 18 a woman, Anne Hathaway, who was 26 and pregnant.

Almost everything we know about Shakespeare's life we know from public records and business receipts and stuff like that. He didn't journal. The first sentence above is known from parish records.

He mostly wrote plays which he didn't want published and which weren't published in his lifetime with his permission. He and the companies he worked in, which were like coops, he was like a co-owner, didn't want plays published because they considered them like trade secrets. They didn't want them available for other companies to use.

In his lifetime his plays, some of them were published, against his desire, with varying degrees of accuracy--these publications are called by scholars now "good quartos" and "bad quartos" depending on how the scholar feels about their accuracy.

Some people think someone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays, usually an aristocrat who had to be secretive because of the low reputation of the theatre.

I think that whether or not people are into this theory is heavily related to their class background. Both of my parent's were the first in the families to go to college, and I think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. That's the way it goes. Because the assumption is that someone with no college from a middling background couldn't be that smart. I assume otherwise.

The plays of Shakespeare were published by his friends and company members when he was dead, in a book called a folio, after its size. The unauthorized quartos published in his lifetime were also named after their size--smaller than the later, way more official folio.

Mostly Shakespeare wrote plays; it looks like that was his preference, though we have no words from him on that. We just have what he did--mostly plays.

During a time when the theatres in London were closed because of plays, he wrote a long poem, Venus and Adonis.

The people who read the poem would have already known the plot.

Adonis was very good-looking. Venus, the goddess of love, fell in love with him. He died while boar hunting and she was very sad.

In the version of this story by the guy who was married at 18 to a woman who was 26, the first part of the story is fairly funny.

Here's Venus, on top of Adonis, saying, at length, you are so beautiful...

He talks must less, but mostly says, I wanna go play sports with the guys.

The goddess of love is truly all over him and he keeps saying, Boarhunting with the guys, gotta do it.

**** 1

The vision is of a very large, beautiful to herself woman lying on top up this guy who isn't responding physically at all.

Adonis in this poem feels like maybe he's never going to be interested in women or maybe he is just too young to be interested in sex. Maybe women later, but not this woman now.

The feeling is also that this guy isn't getting enough sleep to be in good shape to engage in a
dangerous sport. Venus is very talking.

When Shakespeare wrote plays he couldn't write love making, because of censorship from the Master of Revels, who worked for the government and had to approve of everything.

In this poem he had a chance to present lovemaking, since it wouldn't be presented physically like a play and didn't have the same level of censorship.

But what he presented wasn't exactly lovemaking. Lots of time with two naked people horizontal but a real lack of mutual interest.

Adonis feels like he is technically old enough to get it on with Venus, but psychologically know, wanna shoot some baskets.

Except shooting baskets is not, in itself, life threatening. Trying to kill of boar is. The boar knows it's him or the hunters and has big tusks and is not ready to die.

Adonis wasn't ready to die either. He was really young. But somtimes people die of being really young even if they are not ready to die.

*** 2

The boar got him, as he had too, since that was the ancient story. In this version, I blame Venus quite a bit because she kept him up talking at him.

Being stuck in the little town you grew up in is not the same as death, but can feel similar to the young.

Maybe Adonis' lack of response to Venus was a Shakespeare fantasy of his life. If I had not responded physically, no pregnancy, no marriage, no kid.

In spite of all those things, Shakespeare got out of the little town anyway and got himself to London, we know not how. We just know he was there and successful by his mid twenties.

Successful enough for poor old Richard Greene to be jealous of him. Richard Greene was a playwright who was there before Shakespeare and when Shakespeare came. Why Richard Greene is remembered would not please him. He is remembered for his snooty written remark about Shakespeare that is the first record of Shakespeare being in London.