HOURS OF SHAKESPEARE
Hours of Shakespeare are countable in his lines.
The outline of his life which we here begin with.
William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564 in Stratford, England. He was buried on April 25, 1616 in Stratford.
That does not mean he was all the time in his life in Stratford. His career as a dramatist and a poet flourished in London to which he left his hometown, Stratford, and his wife and children behind. The circumstances details were unknown. This is the very basic base line of Shakespeare’s life with two points as beginning and end.
He was born in prestige. His father, John Shakespeare was a high figure in Stratford. In 1577, he held the highest public office in town, equivalent to mayor. Sylvan Barnet (1926-2016), Shakespearean scholar, writes that the reason for John Shakespeare’s renoncement of the political office is unknown. Shakespeare married when he was eighteen years old. Anne Hathaway was eight years senior. A biographical information provides to us with the marriage appeared to be in a hurry for her pregnancy.
In the time of Shakespeare, poets were highly regarded much more than playwriters, as also said by Barnet. Shakespeare thus aimed at his career goal as poet and sought aristocratic patronage. Then came out several publications of poetries. He drew attentions, or curiosities in the scene. He was in his 20’s.
(Those pieces of the proto-information about Shakespeare are from Sylvan Barnet’s introduction of Shakespeare Signet Classic. The same description seems to recur through the series).
(courtesy to google images: Shakespearean theatre)
Love. Yes, love. Love is the theme in Shakespeare’s poetry. Otherwise, death. The other theme is death. Love and death. Or love and end. Or, love and time. Or, timeless and time. Or, time bound or inevitable end. A relevancy is found in the stanza below:
Crabbèd age and youth cannot live together: Youth is full of pleasance, age is full of care; Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather; Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare, Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short; Youth is nimble, age is lame; Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold; You is wild, and age is tame, Age, I do abhor thee, youth, I do adore thee; O, my love, my love is young! Age, I do defy thee. O sweet shepherd hie thee, For methinks thou stays too long. (The Passionate Pilgrim: XII)
The section is in The Passionate Pilgrim as already mentioned in the block quote. Shakespearean scholars (Sylvan Barnet and William Empson) explains a piracy was published initially and only part of the poem was genuinely Shakespeare’s. The way of numbering divisions in the poem seems different by editions and the Signet Classic (Shakespeare: The Complete Nondramatic Poetry; 2008) to which I am referring contains eleven stanzas of The Passionate Pilgrim with no consecutive numbering and the poem begins with IV. The above quoted XII may or may not be Shakespeare’s, but no one cares so much as said by Barnet (p. xxxi).
Only at this poem on youth (oh, so good and fresh) and age (oh, no, so old and weary) gathered some enthusiasm for debating the authenticity of the authorship or popularity of the readership, also as said by Barnet. Understandably it must be, is my comment, so said by me.
Today’s reader may wonder. Can it be interpreted conventionally as a lamentable observation of a human life on a timeline ending as death?
Or, is it to sing about and celebrate youth to be loved for the preciousness of the moments?
Or, that O sweet shepherd hie thee is supposed to be sympathized for his unmatched love for youth like a summer morning?
Or ‘my love’ is young, not yet aged, means his heart is hot and bold with young love?
The secret of the popularity, if it is popular, must be this: there is no secret for one to understand that youth is adorable while age[d] is undesirable. Especially for love. That is as blunt as a proverbe to ear.
My personal conclusion is the stanza must not have been written by Shakespeare.
Below is the next stanza.
Beauty is but a vain and doubtful good; A shining gloss that vadeth suddenly; A flower dies when first it 'gins to bud; A brittle glass that's broken presently; A doubtful good, a gloss, a glass, a flower, Loss, vaded, broken, dead within an hour. And as goods lost are seld or never found, As vaded gloss no rubbing will refresh, As flowers dead lie witherèd on the ground, As broken glass no cement can redress: So beauty blemished once, for ever lost, In spite of physic, painting, pain, and cost. (XIII)
In my sense, this is Shakespeare’s.
Youth is full of pleasance (XII) can be compared to Loss, vaded, broken, dead within an hour (XIII). That pleasance is nothing wrong, but as descriptive as a blunt proverbe. You break-open a fortune cookie and may find Youth is full of pleasance, age is full of care.
Let’s see more. Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare. You break open another fortune cookie. You will find a pair of summer brave and winter bare. Going to one line up within the same XII, one sees winter weather. Okay, age like winter bare / age like winter weather. Okay, together, care, weather, bare. As if a list from a poetry making guidebook, in a section of thematic binaries which shows youth and old as an example theme.
What’s more? Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short. Qatar World Cup 2022 has no interest in using this line. Rather, you sign in social media and may see Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short on ad for health care products. We can’t there also forget age is full of care.
I may be overly unfair to XII. (That’s why I usually avoid scholar’s introduction in general). But, this The Passionate Pilgrim in Shakespeare Signet Classic starts with IV, the very next of which is VI, immediately succeeded by VII (that is fine like oh, thank you), but the next appearing is IX. The irregular numbering goes to the last section. Roman number runs as I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX and so on. What happened to 1-3, 5, 8-10 and other sections with missing numbers? I inevitably turned pages of Introductions (Barnet’s (pp. xxx-xxxi) and Empson’s (pp. 214-5) ) to find out what was going there.
I may be certainly unfair to XII. But, my expectation is very high for this is, well, because Shakespeare’s lines are my concern. The genius in poetry is not only content, but content and form have to match or resonate in poetic excellence.
To be fair to XII, Shakespearean characters like Fool (King Lear), Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), or supernatural character like witches (Macbeth) speak lines along on XII. In my second thought, however, I incline to remove Mercutio from this tentative list of ‘I speak crude and funny, or spooky-freaky with rhyme, pun in punch lines’. Fool too, I remove from the list. The closest to XII thus would be witches in King Lear. Bubble, double, trouble, fair is foul, foul is fair, [c]rabbèd age and youth cannot live together ….
For those who are familiar to Shakespeare, the word, pilgrim in his love poetry is a ringing bell. I was also drawn to the word in the title The Passionate Pilgrim. Below is the very famous lines from the superbly well known play of Shakespeare:
Romeo. If I profane with my unworthiest hand The holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. Juliet. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, Which mannerly devotion shows in this; For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss. (Romeo and Juliet : 1:5;93-102)
The scene is the dancing social party held by The Capulet family, power house in Verona. Montague is the other power house in town and two families are foes. Romeo is Montague while Juliet is Capulet. The had never met each other until this scene in which they still do not who is the other to each by the name of the family.
I honestly feel foolish in explaining the situational background of Romeo and Juliet, because, in my sense, the whole world must know the tragedy of this love story. Intriguing, luring, witty in the earlier acts, unexpected developments are after, then the dramaturgy brings plots which make their love be tragic and eternal at the same time.
The first encounter of Romeo and Juliet is also set in an interesting premonition of the fatal love for Romeo who was in one-way attraction to Rosaline as q pré-amour subject, whom Juliet burst blew out from Romeo’s mind with immediacy upon her first appearance in his sight.
They pursue the pilgrim theme:
Romeo. Have not sainte lips, and holy palmers too? Juliet. Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer. Romeo. O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do! They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair. Juliet. Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' Sake. (103-106)
If Romeo and Juliet is desired to read as a moral teaching material for today’s youth to be like summer morning, this is the scene. Those two youths (Romeo and Juliet) is verbally preparing for their first kiss. Yes, the setting is a party and dancing is also present, but no drugs or deep kiss or more advancement within a quick series of actions.
The Passionate Pilgrim XIII can be interpreted in different ways. The beauty said of is that of women. The beauty said of is that of youth. The beauty said of is that of young women. Or, The beauty said of is that of love just born fresh, desired to last long or forever if possible, but destined to fade gradually or be broken by sudden seizure of the one desiring.
Even by a quick glance at his sonnets and narrative poems, one may grasp Shakespeare’s cynicism and his detachment set somewhat remotely from the reality of factual love. That would be described as man’s empirical cynicism in the fragile equilibrium on love and lust. Which is the pivotal theme of the medieval love in literature too.
By desiring, man destroys the thing which he never wants to break while seizing it. When seeing it broken, he sees the beauty become flower dead lie witherèd on the ground. As broken glass no cement can redress; / So beauty blemished once, for ever lost.
Shakespeare completed Romeo and Juliet when he was around thirty years old. The earlier drafts might have existed when he was several years younger than the publication of the oeuvre. Scholars’ interests may be directed to Shakespeare’s early marriage. He was still a teenager and became a father and a husband.
Those things are, however, not a focus for us (my readers and me). A question is whether Shakespeare was able to crystalize the love as art in such a beauty for his disapproval of factual love in realistic actualities.
It is true that such words as youth, young are quasi-prodigious by the usage of Shakespeare. But, an assumption such that the matter is only about youth as opposed to old age might be wrong or very wrong. With this regard, The Passionate Pilgrim XII does not seem to be Shakespeare’s because its simplicity pointing only at the biological binary in a life span at the core.
In Romeo and Juliet, the ironical twits in mal-maneuvers end the drama in tragedy. Romeo enters the tomb of Capulet where Juliet lies unconscious whose state is believed as dead by Romeo.
Love. Death. Loss forever. Romeo:
[....] A grave? O, no, a lanthorn, slaught'red youth, For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes This vault a feasting presence full of light. Death, lie thou there, by a dead man interred. [Lays him in the tomb.] How oft when men are at the point of death Have they been merry! Which their keepers call A lightning before death. O, how may I Call this a lightning? O my love, my wife! (Romeo and Juliet : 5:3;82-91)
Love. Death. No more death. Eternal union. Romeo:
[....} Here, here will I remain With worms that are thy chambermaids. O, here, Will I set up my everlasting rest And shakes the yoke of inauspicious stars From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last! Arms, take our last embrace! And, lips, O you The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss A dateless bargain to engrossing death! Come, bitter conduct; come, unsavory guide! Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark! Here's to my love! [Drinks (poison)] O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I dies [Falls.} (5:3;108-120)
Thus with a kiss he dies. A panic of those who created the plot to try to rescue the fatal youths in love from the fatal calamity of the situation follows. Romeo! O, pale! (144). Because he dies. Then, Juliet very [un]timely rises. O, comfortable friar! Where is my Romeo? (148, 150).
Juliette after the Friar’s prompt exit:
[...] Drink all, and left no friendly drop To help me after? I will kiss thy lips. Haply some poison yet doth hang on them To make me die with a restorative. [Kisses him.] Thy lips are warm! (163-167)
The last kiss. How intensely and quickly they came here from the first kiss of pilgrim!
Juliet snatches Romeo’s dagger. She kills herself.
For the love to be eternal, Shakespeare seized the lovers’ hours from their earthly fate.
We move to Macbeth. We will see how well Shakespeare made a condensed effect of the dramatization of time in a discourse. Macbeth:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing. (Macbeth : 5:6;19-28)
I really doubt whether there would possibly be anyone who can miss this to be the climax of the play on its textual basis. One needs no scholarly reference beforehand. The lines hit thunderously your heart. If you quote this speech in order to write an essay or just mention it as the most important and later find more than one or two scholars quote it as important to discuss Macbeth, that means you have a sense of literature.
Now time according to Shakespeare: Out, out, brief candle! / Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more.
A life is a walking shadow, insignificant as a poor player. On the stage called the universe. In which his hours are drained into nothing. Out, out, brief candle! Tomorrows creep to the unknown end, dreadfully marching. And all our yesterdays are in fools’ hands, fret and stride from the first syllable of unrecorded time. How then can we know the opposing ends? The slings and arrows point and hit at the outrageous stage of storms. There, do you bear the whips and scorns of time? To die, to sleep, by a sleep we awake in a sea of no remembrance. To the oblivion of coils and turmoil. O so long life! Or, so short life! Out, out! Out, brief candle! Now! It is the time for no time! O all actors, behold! Our playwriter enters!
To be, or not to be: [.....] Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them. to die, to sleep---- No more --- and by a sleep to say we end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to! 'Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. to die, to sleep---- (Hamlet : 3:1;56-64)
Actors: How should we die hereafter?
Playwriter: There would be a time for such a word. On the stage!
Actors: Full of sound and fury!
Playwriter: Follow a tale told by an idiot. It is the tale,
All: Signifying nothing.
(Hours of Shakespeare)