Poet, Writer, Musician, Educator
Since my introduction in life to poetry was a volume of Shakespeare's sonnets, the first part of my triptych of poetry (and a little prose) is about William Shakespeare, whom I have met many times in idle dreams of fancy.
Rich: That's right, Will. Your physical body would be one place, but your mind and heart could instantly be at another place with those you love.
Shakespeare: If the dull substance of my flesh were thought?
Rich: Yes! Forget your body for the moment; you could talk directly to them.
Shakespeare: Why, then, injurious distance should not stop my way!
Rich: Yes! Exactly! Neat, eh?
Shakespeare: Dost thou mean to say that I could speak to you from afar without impediment?
Rich: Yes, yes, yes! I think you understand now.
Shakespeare: So, despite of space, I would be brought from limits far remote where thou dost stay? No matter then although my foot did stand upon the farthest earth removed from thee?
Rich: (munching a Timmies donut): Yup!
Shakespeare: Could my nimble thought jump both sea and land as soon as think the place where you might be?
Rich: (sipping coffee): Uh huh...sure.
Shakespeare: Thought kills me that it is not so.
Rich: But it will be, Will. I assure you.
Shakespeare: But not now...(he sighs) So I shall never leap large lengths of miles thus? Alas, then I must attend time's leisure with my moan, receiving nought by elements so slow but heavy tears...
Rich: I know, it's too bad - but look, you can still dream about it, right? Perhaps you can write it down in one of your sonnets or something? Are you writing your sonnets yet?
Rich: Okay..good! How many have you written?
Rich: Awesome. So look, for me, Will, write your next sonnet, number 44 about being able to send instant messages to those you love. Just for fun! Will you do it for me?
Shakespeare: (sighs) If it so please you, I shall; although it must needs be mixed with the sadness of knowing I shall never experience such a marvel.
Rich: Great! I'll look for it.
Shakespeare's Sonnet 44
If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
Receiving nought by elements so slow
But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.
Poet, Writer, Musician, Educator
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Behold, I bear the lumber on my back
to build a stage to house your dreams;
with doggéd tears I'll bind the seams,
and with determination fill each crack.
I'll build a Globe - your Globe - below the Thames,
where souls might come to hear you sing,
perform a jig, or play a king,
that all the world might see those hidden gems
you hold within, like stars above night's shroud.
O you shall span the breadth of time
upon your burnished throne of rhyme,
and shake a golden spear through every cloud.
* burnished - from Shakespeare's (Enobarbus's) description
of Cleopatra's barge upon the shores of Rome;
Shakespeare's men (and perhaps Shakespeare himself) built
the original Globe Theatre in 1599 by taking the lumber from
an existing theatre plank by plank over the Thames.
A Visitor During Rehearsal
“Getting shakey, Master Shakespeare?” bellowed the large, grizzly bear of a man striding across the stage as if he owned it. “This is rubbish. Rubbish! No one will believe a word of it. Why don't you try to use language that people actually speak, Will?" He was now standing before one of the open trapdoors where the great actor and playwright's head was visible.
“Greetings, Ben.” Master Shakespeare was hardly paying any attention to the Falstaff-like figure before him. He was signaling a page to bring him a quill from the shadowy sides of the stage. Once he had it in his hand, he began to write furiously on the papers he held in his other hand. He glanced up at Jonson. “What wind didst thou out-blow to enter the Globe during rehearsal? And what are you prattling on about?”
“The Prince of Denmark is going to leap into the grave of this Danish tart? I mean, really, Will. It's villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool who uses it!” Jonson's hands were on his hips. His head was as red as a beet.
Shakespeare stopped writing and looked straight at Jonson, his excitement immediately evident in his blushing cheeks and bright eyes. “Ben, that's perfect...” He began to write again. “Yes, yes...”a most pitiful ambition....yes, yes, that's it!”
“What? Art thou to use my words? Oh, is THAT it, then? Arrgh.” Jonson shook his great head and continued. “Never mind you keep me in the dark about this new play of yours – this Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – but now you'll filch me words as well? Shall I teach you how to act as well, Will? Why in blazes art thou stuck in that hole anyway? Shouldn't Burbage be standing down there in the pit o' hell?”
“It's fine, Ben,” came the immediately recognizable voice of Shakespeare's lead actor, Richard Burbage, from the wings. “Will is helping me get wind of the lines. It is one of the benefits of having a playwright who is also an accomplished actor. Will knows exactly what he wants, to be sure.”
“Oh, does he now?” laughed Jonson. “If there were any sense in that thick-skulled pate of his, he'd have never let the likes of good ol' Kempe go out that door!” Ben struck a great overblown pose.
“Aye, that's me – helping you out of another hole you've fallen into!”
Will smiled at him. “Kempe had to go, Ben. His extempore work was...what was the word you used? Oh, yes...villainous. He distracted the crowd from the play, and thou know'st full well the play's the thing.”
“But he was so gooooood, Will. Why, he'd have them bursting their buckles with a look or a twist of his head.”
“Ah, that is exactly what I mean. Those who play clowns should speak no more than is written down for them. Kempe had no control and would laugh like a baboon at the spectators while some necessary question of the play was being considered. Now THAT'S villainous!”
“Hmmmph...” grumbled Jonson as Burbage ran over to inspect the new lines Shakespeare had written for him. “The only thing villainous is an empty purse...bring him back, Will!”
“Never. There is a point where a fool can become contemptuous, too ambitious, and therefore dangerous to the proper working of a performance.”
Ben recognized the self-assurance in Will's voice and knew there was nothing he could say to convince him otherwise when he used that particular tone of voice. It bothered Ben a great deal, especially as Will always turned out to be right in the end. Somehow!
Will was listening closely to Burbage pouring his heart out over the trapdoor about his beloved Ophelia. After a brief pause and a nod from Shakespeare, the great actor continued.
Later, after several scenes were finished, Ben took out a massive capon from an inner pocket and began to eat on the stage. Will looked at him and grimaced.
Will said, “That is exactly the manner in which an actor should say his lines, Rich – trippingly on the tongue. I couldn't have said it better. That's enough for this morning. We only have a fortnight to prepare the play and I need some time to add a few more missing details to the plot.” He turned to Ben and said, “Hast thou another?” pointing to the capon.
The two playwrights retired to the tiring room to go over some of the more difficult aspects of the play. Shakespeare did very little speaking, but it was clear when the play was finally produced that he had been paying great attention to the burly man who could finish off a leg of lamb in three unholy bites.
“What would I do without you, Ben?” he quipped.
“Thou wouldst be in the streets with the urchins, Will,” Ben answered.
“Or with those little eyases you work with over at Paul's!”
“Hmmph!” answered Ben.
of Shakespeare's Globe Theater, 1613
The cannon boomed across the stage
and flickered to the sky,
but on its way a single spark
touched thatch, alas, too dry.
My "Wooden O" began to burn,
its wadding filled with fire;
in just two hours 'twas naught but ash -
my heart said, "Will, retire."
And so I did. The plays as yet
unfinished left behind;
the Globe I knew was now no more,
save visions in my mind.
A Sonnet (from his Wife, Anne Hathaway)
I saw him plainly, breathing out his last:
he wore the tranquil smile of one who knew.
Alas, for me the years have gone too fast -
aye, all too quickly time his curtain drew.
I kept his house and raised his children three,
and loved him when his world made room for us.
His friends from London came with poetry,
and built his monument with little fuss.
I'd heard him speak his lines (sometimes he cried),
but when I felt his verse upon my tongue,
it seemed as if my William had not died!
Our timbers seemed to shake at each word sung.
Since then, his friends have made New Place* their home,
and with sweet sweat have fashioned forth his tome.
*Shakespeare's home in Stratford was called New Place, and
the first folio of his works was (sadly) published shortly after Anne's death.
Ever wonder what Shakespeare might think about the Internet? Well, wonder no more! I took the liberty of going back in time and interviewing the Bard himself on the matter. I didn't want to frighten him by actually showing him my laptop, which I had tucked under my jacket, but I asked him to imagine what it would be like to be able to talk to those he loved at any time or place (the word "internet" would have been incomprehensible to him). Will was intrigued. Well, here is a transcript of our conversation (by the way, he said De Vere never wrote a single word of his plays!)
Shakespeare's View of the Internet (an Interview)