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Thread: Shakespeare's sonnets

  1. #16
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Sure you should

    Notice how the 3 words Kev singled are latin words, Tempest, impediment, bark, and should give us no problem at all. Unlike england, Shakespeare is not an island.
    I expect I understood impediments and tempest when I was 14 or 15. I know I made a model kit of Hawker Tempest. I've never heard a boat referred to as a bark anywhere other than in this poem. The other word I'd have had trouble with is compass. To me a compass was either a navigation device, a device for drawing circles, or, more exotically, a device for estimating distances on sea charts back in the days of sail.I've never heard the word compass to mean sweep except in this poem. To fully understand Shakespeare, you have to learn a lot of vocabulary that is only used in Shakespeare.

    Even when you know what all the words mean, it can be quite difficult to get what Shakespeare's driving at. You have to read an explanation of each poem or play to fully understand what they mean, at least most people would. That's why I suspect most British people at least have a problem with Shakespeare. We're constantly told he's our national playwright and our greatest ever writer, but most of us have a difficult time understanding his work.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
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    Compass, another word from Latin.

    Like Pompey said, Shakespeare wording follows poetic device he took from continental poets (no surprise, many of his themes too), so you must turn your ear to the french and italian poets once or while. He is certainly the english national writer, but for a good while it was Milton (this one more English, less european than Shakespeare, if we can say such thing). Many of the "national" writers are like this: Goethe was much less "german" than many of his peers, Borges a lot more european than Argie, Camões is heavily european with his petrachisms, Cervantes dialogue with italians was imense, etc. Mostly because they are often trying to deal not with the need to be a "national" poet, no such formula, but rather with the competition with other peers. Those who try hard to be "the guy" of the nation end stuck in time with that nation. I wonder how many outside the english world can dwell with Spencer Faerie Queen, which is a great effort, full of ingenous moments, good poetry and very interesting, but smells Elizabethan England far far away...
    #foratemer

  3. #18
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I like your intelectual honesty, Kev, and your persistence with literary themes.

    I think Shakespeare´s poetic language is purposely elaborate. It is not easily to access, maybe because the elaborate images and wordplays hide truths that are not so easy to swallow. For example, as we discussed above A Midsummer´s Dreams presents love stories, that, with some help of the faries, all end well. But in fact, to use the word "infatuation" PB used, it is a play that shows how easily love change its object.

    I guess for the no fairies and eye drops would be necessary for the youths of today to understand that. In Portuguese we have the word "ficar"(to stay) and also "ficante"(the stayer) to designate a uncompromising love relationship.

    I think Shakespeare and other contemporaries, like Cervantes for example, had to face a new vision of the world, where man and not more religion like in the middle-ages occupies the center of the stage. For man this is an unsettling experience, he doesn´t trust his own senses any more, he has lost his solid references, his feet have been pushed off the ground. One represents life indirectly, madness and dreams become grand themes in this period.
    So I think the language used to express all this is also an indirect language which plays hide and seek with its readers, which veils and reveals at the same time. Every methapher has to be examined and understood, also every turn of the phrase/or the verse. But if one has the time and the patience to do it one will gain a lot of insight by it.
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  4. #19
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCamilo View Post
    Sure you should

    Notice how the 3 words Kev singled are latin words, Tempest, impediment, bark, and should give us no problem at all. Unlike england, Shakespeare is not an island.
    Yes, and "barco" and "barcaça" and so on. But I probably was looking for the English associations to "bark".
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  5. #20
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I've never heard a boat referred to as a bark anywhere other than in this poem.
    You have if you've read Macbeth:

    First Witch:
    A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap,
    And munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd:--
    'Give me,' quoth I:
    'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries.
    Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger:
    But in a sieve I'll thither sail,
    And, like a rat without a tail,
    I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do.

    Second Witch
    I'll give thee a wind.

    First Witch
    Thou'rt kind.

    Third Witch
    And I another.

    First Witch
    I myself have all the other.
    And the very ports they blow,
    All the quarters that they know
    I' the shipman's card.
    I will drain him dry as hay:
    Sleep shall neither night nor day
    Hang upon his pent-house lid;
    He shall live a man forbid:
    Weary se'nnights nine times nine
    Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:
    Though his bark cannot be lost,
    Yet it shall be tempest-tost.


    This is an example of what I was trying to say above. If you immerse yourself in a play (where you have context on your side) you get the vocabulary without even trying. I know most of the witches lines by heart. How? I don't know. They're just kind of cool and I've heard them a million times. So when I read the Sonnets (which I don't know nearly as well), I already have an intuitive grasp of their language. Read the plays. Know the plays. Love the plays. Then try the hard stuff.

    Your problem with bark, by the way, is probably only a matter of spelling. There is still a kind of ship called a barque. Do the English really not know what a barque is anymore? Drake must be turning over in his watery grave.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    The other word I'd have had trouble with is compass. To me a compass was either a navigation device, a device for drawing circles, or, more exotically, a device for estimating distances on sea charts back in the days of sail.I've never heard the word compass to mean sweep except in this poem.
    See, you know what it means. It's not sweep like a broom sweeps, it's the sweep of a sickle and all it encompasses. That's what circles do, right? They encompass an area on a plain. That's why the drawing tool is called a compass. Time's sickle compasses youthful beauty but not true love. You don't need a dictionary to tell you what that means. You just need to think like an Elizabethan poet.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Even when you know what all the words mean, it can be quite difficult to get what Shakespeare's driving at. You have to read an explanation of each poem or play to fully understand what they mean, at least most people would. That's why I suspect most British people at least have a problem with Shakespeare. We're constantly told he's our national playwright and our greatest ever writer, but most of us have a difficult time understanding his work.
    Well, no one knows the Victorians like you do, Kev. Maybe Shakespeare's not your thing. I hope I'm wrong for your sake. There is just so much there for a reader like you. But hey, Joyce is SO not my thing, and I'm from the Irish colony of Boston. Still I cannot imagine the English people as a whole not having a better sense of Shakespearean language and thought than I do. As Hermia says (or was it Helena?): "I am amazed and know not what to say."
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 05-13-2019 at 02:08 PM.
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  6. #21
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I did know a bark was a ship, but only because I remember it from English class 30 odd years ago. I used that sonnet because it was one of only two I actually understood properly. I am surprised Danik understands Shakespeare at all since English is not her first language.
    Kev, my relationship with Shakespeare is a very curious one. I first read him in German, because my father had the famous translation of Schlegel and Tieck. The effect of this translation on the German reader was that Shakespeare became a classic of the Germans too with an obligatory place in the bookcase besides Goethe and the other classics. The effect on me was, that I was a bit disappointed, when I finally was in condition to read the original.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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  7. #22
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Okay, but just to be clear, the text Kev posted wasn't from A Midsummer Night's Dream.




    I think the fairies are (among other things) mirrors of the humans characters. There's a great old stage tradition of having the same a

    Lately I've been considering the theme of paradox in the play. Bottom and the mechanicals are always saying dumb things like "I see a voice!" or talking about how they are going to perform their play on Theseus and Hypolita's wedding day at night. After Bottom's trippy sexual adventure with Titania is over, there is a scene, usually played for laughs, which I think Shakespeare may have intended philosophically. Trying to make sense of his experience, Bottom confronts the problem of expressing the inexpressible:

    "I have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an *** if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called “Bottom’s Dream” because it hath no bottom."

    These are jokes, of course, but they have a certain Zen to them, too. What is the sound of one hand tasting? That is what Bottom is asking. What happens when the rules stop making sense? What happens to Bottom when the bottom drops out?
    Without wanting to make a pun, but not discarding it either, I think there you went to the bottom of the matter. Shakespeare so very often puts his favorite truths in the mouths of the fools and the lunatics. I only would not use the word Zen, which to me suggests serenity, although I think I understand what you mean. But for Bottom it is an unsettling experience and he is in a hurry to transform it in something more familiar, a ballad, which is again a parody of the play.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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  8. #23
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    You have if you've read Macbeth:

    First Witch:
    A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap,
    And munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd:--
    'Give me,' quoth I:
    'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fed ronyon cries.
    Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger:
    But in a sieve I'll thither sail,
    And, like a rat without a tail,
    I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do.

    Second Witch
    I'll give thee a wind.

    First Witch
    Thou'rt kind.

    Third Witch
    And I another.

    First Witch
    I myself have all the other.
    And the very ports they blow,
    All the quarters that they know
    I' the shipman's card.
    I will drain him dry as hay:
    Sleep shall neither night nor day
    Hang upon his pent-house lid;
    He shall live a man forbid:
    Weary se'nnights nine times nine
    Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:
    Though his bark cannot be lost,
    Yet it shall be tempest-tost.


    This is an example of what I was trying to say above. If you immerse yourself in a play (where you have context on your side) you get the vocabulary without even trying. I know most of the witches lines by heart. How? I don't know. They're just kind of cool and I've heard them a million times. So when I read the Sonnets (which I don't know nearly as well), I already have an intuitive grasp of their language. Read the plays. Know the plays. Love the plays. Then try the hard stuff.

    Your problem with bark, by the way, is probably only a matter of spelling. There is still a kind of ship called a barque. Do the English really not know what a barque is anymore? Drake must be turning over in his watery grave.
    True, I have read 'bark' in Macbeth, only I think I misunderstood its meaning as 'life'. Macbeth was the Shakespeare play I studied for my English O level exam. I got a C, which actually wasn't bad for back then. I can still remember the opening lines of that play. I can't remember coming across the word barque, and I have read all the Captain Aubrey/Maturin books, Moby Dick, The Sea Wolf, Lord Jim, Robinson Crusoe and one Horatio Hornblower book. The spelling 'bark' makes it look more a Germanic word than old French. No doubt that's where the word embark derives from.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  9. #24
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    Kev, my relationship with Shakespeare is a very curious one. I first read him in German, because my father had the famous translation of Schlegel and Tieck. The effect of this translation on the German reader was that Shakespeare became a classic of the Germans too with an obligatory place in the bookcase besides Goethe and the other classics. The effect on me was, that I was a bit disappointed, when I finally was in condition to read the original.
    Disappointed with the translation or disappointed with the original?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  10. #25
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    With the original. Probably because I understood the translation better.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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  11. #26
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    Without wanting to make a pun, but not discarding it either, I think there you went to the bottom of the matter. Shakespeare so very often puts his favorite truths in the mouths of the fools and the lunatics. I only would not use the word Zen, which to me suggests serenity, although I think I understand what you mean. But for Bottom it is an unsettling experience and he is in a hurry to transform it in something more familiar, a ballad, which is again a parody of the play.
    Ah, pun proudly, Danik.

    What I meant by Zen was a riddle in which one contemplates irreconcilable conditions. When the known breaks down, one is subject to the power of the unknown (which is what the fairy wood is all about). Shakespeare may be hinting at mysticism (or even occultism), but I think he's also anticipating something like Kant's epistemology. At least Bottom experiences something of the kind when he finds himself unable to speak about what is real. I think the ballad Bottom wants Peter Quince to write, Bottom's Dream, is Shakespeare's assertion that art/drama can at least try to cross the line. The ballad may even refer to A Midsummer Night's Dream itself; especially if Peter Quince is taken as Shakespeare's own self-parody with Bottom & Co. the various actors he has to endure. The play within a play seems like an excercize in self-parody as well.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 05-15-2019 at 10:58 AM.
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  12. #27
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    True, I have read 'bark' in Macbeth, only I think I misunderstood its meaning as 'life'. Macbeth was the Shakespeare play I studied for my English O level exam. I got a C, which actually wasn't bad for back then. I can still remember the opening lines of that play. I can't remember coming across the word barque, and I have read all the Captain Aubrey/Maturin books, Moby Dick, The Sea Wolf, Lord Jim, Robinson Crusoe and one Horatio Hornblower book. The spelling 'bark' makes it look more a Germanic word than old French. No doubt that's where the word embark derives from.
    Oh, frigate! I mean, what the hull? Let's go back to talking about the ferries.
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  13. #28
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Regarding the average Briton's understanding of Shakespeare, I think I heard on the radio that people used to understand him better because they were used to reading the King James Bible. Not sure how true that is. Britons have not been particularly church-going for a very long time. I often wonder why there are so many churches here. Now if we read a bible at all, it's more likely to be a Good News Bible or one of the many other modern English bibles.

    I read an interesting bit in a war memoir called Quartered Safe Out Here, by George MacDonald Fraser, in which the writer says his sergeant borrowed his copy of one of the Henrys. He returned it a couple days later, having read it and enjoyed it. He thought Shakespeare must have been a soldier by the way he portrayed the soldiers in the play. Fraser said it was fascinating, because the sergeant would have left school at fifteen with a pretty basic education. He assumed his reading would be limited to The Racing Post.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Regarding the average Briton's understanding of Shakespeare, I think I heard on the radio that people used to understand him better because they were used to reading the King James Bible. Not sure how true that is. Britons have not been particularly church-going for a very long time. I often wonder why there are so many churches here. Now if we read a bible at all, it's more likely to be a Good News Bible or one of the many other modern English bibles.
    Ah, the Good News Bible. Yes, no wonder you're not religious anymore.

    Anyway, the suggestion about the King James Bible is an interesting one, but I suspect that is only part of the problem. The abandonment of western humanities and philology has led to little dark age. Western literature may or may not survive the authoritarian wrath to come. But I editorialize. For now I will merely observe that Biblical illiteracy is the gift that keeps on giving. The Good News Bible begat No Fear Shakespeare dumbdowns, which continue to beget fear of Fielding, Thackeray, Dickens, etc. etc. etc. On the bright side, the radical devaluation of literature in our times means that the great authors (including Shakespeare) can now be acquired for free. I was an unhappy man until my wife taught me the Tao of the cheapskate.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 05-14-2019 at 12:05 PM.
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  15. #30
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    Ah, pun proudly, Danik.

    What I meant by Zen was a riddle in which one contemplates irreconcilable conditions. When the known breaks down, one is subject to the power of the unknown (which is what the fairy wood is all about). Shakespeare may be hinting at mysticism (or even occultism), but I think he's also anticipating something like Kant's epistemology. At least Bottom experiences something of the kind when he finds himself unable to speak about what is real. The ballad, I think, is Shakespeare's assertion that art/drama can at least try to cross the line. And the ballad Bottom wants Peter Quince to write, Bottom's Dream, seems to me to have more than a little to do with A Midsummer Night's Dream; especially if Peter Quince is taken as a Shakespeare's own self-parody with Bottom & Co. the vain and foolish various actors he has to endure. The play within a play seems like an excercize in self-parody as well.
    Yes, I see it's another conception of Zen.
    Peter Qince is a self-parody of Shakespeare himself ,yes. And the part of Pyramus and Thisbe is one of the most funniest things Shakespeare' has ever written.
    But Oberon's generosity with the young lovers takes the attention away from his cruelty to his wife.
    "You can always find something better than death."
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