Saturday, May 20, 2017

Remembering Shakespeare and predicting the future


Here is something from The Writer's Almanac:
 
Shakespeare's sonnets were first published on this day in 1609, most likely without Shakespeare's permission (books by this author). The book contained 154 sonnets, all but two of which had never been published before. Shakespeare (or perhaps the publisher Thomas Thorpe) dedicated the collection to "Mr. W.H." whose identity has never been known. The poems are about love, sex, politics, youth, and the mysterious "Dark Lady," and they have given young lovers and the hopelessly romantic words for the ages:

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, a
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade,
Nor loose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time though grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.


And here is a personal postscript:
I would often hear students complain about having to read Shakespeare's plays and poems because of what students referred to as his "old English." To be fair, I understood their complaints. After all, too many people have lost their ability to read anything not compressed into small-brain bits on a cell-phone screen. I suspect the future of Shakespeare is bleak (i.e., students will neither be assigned nor be able to read and understand the works of William Shakespeare or similar giants of literature). In other words, even though men can breathe and eyes can see, Shakespeare's words will no longer have a life. What do you think?

 

17 comments:

  1. Tim,

    I hope not, though I fear you are right. Perhaps Shakespeare will develop a cult following.

    I can see when the closest any student comes to literature will be the Classics Illustrated version--lots of pictures to get away from those boring words.

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    1. Fred, I think the outlook is complicated by the curricula for English majors and teacher certification programs; the giants of literature are being marginalized or even eliminated, and politically correct writers are the replacements. People cannot teach what they neither know nor understand.

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    2. Rights on the money, Tim... I wish it were otherwise, and I hope there will continue to be small enclave of readers who will preserve the classics... Otherwise, welcome to the "Planet of the Apes"... Or worse...

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    3. Yep, worse than that, Mudpuddle.

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    4. The dumbing down of America has not ceased, but has gathered speed in the past decades.

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    5. I wonder about education in other countries, but I have no knowledge.

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  2. I, too, hope that you're not right, Tim. I may be too idealistic about this, but I think Shakespeare had such powerful and universal things to say about the human condition that his work will continue to be read.

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    1. Margot, who will be qualified to teach Shakespeare et al? Why have curricula deteriorated into social engineering rather than aesthetic enrichment programs?

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  3. "Predicting is difficult," said Niels Bohr, "especially the future." The theater and film will help keep Shakespeare alive and snobbery may come to his aid as well. Also, I think there is going to be some pushback against the PC morons.

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  4. I fear you are right. It is not merely that we are more accustomed these days to bite-sized chunks, it is also because we have stopped believing in the very concept of literary quality. Books are valued now merely on the basis of "giving voice" to various groups: literature is fast becoming no more than a battleground for identity politics. Naturally, I hope I am wrong, but I can't help but feel deeply pessimistic.

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  5. Tim,

    When my children were young I had them read Charles Lamb's "Tales From Shakespeare," which told the stories in a form that kids could understand and appreciate. Perhaps this children's book should be assigned to first-year college students as an introduction to the great Bard.

    But films and stage plays will keep Shakespeare alive for future generations.

    Paul

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  6. Replies
    1. Paul, a strange thing happens with your comments; they appear within the posting/comments section but not within my email notifications. I wonder why the glitch happens in our communications. As a former CT speaking to a former Radioman, I wonder about our faulty circuits. Hmmm.

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    2. Tim,

      Got me.

      Back in the day I was more of an admin and physical security guy in radio communications. My computer and tech ability - then and now - is limited.

      Paul

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  7. Oh, I think that the imminent (or even possible) demise of Shakespeare has been *greatly* exaggerated. His works will be around for as long as we call ourselves human. His writing speak to what makes us human like few others before or since. He is pretty much the definition of Genius..... In my opinion any way!

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  8. Frank, Himadri, Paul, CK, et al
    Perhaps I am too much doom and gloom about the future which I will not be around to witness. I hope I have been wrong. Of course, Shakespeare would be surprised about his enduring fame.

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    1. I'm not so sure that Shakespeare *would* have been so surprised by his enduring fame. He knew how good he was:

      Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
      Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme

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