Good Friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.
Saturday 23rd April, 2016…NOT…1616!
Shakespeare! Shakespeare! Where for art thou, Shakespeare?
What a coincidence that I am writing to you on the 400th Anniversary of your death. Should I be wishing you a Happy Death Day? My apologies if that offends. Prior to writing this series: Letters to Dead Poets, I never had to think about such things. Indeed, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve written much of a letter at all, since we now have much faster forms of communication, which I don’t have time to explain.
Anyway, I’ve brought you a cup of tea and a piece of cake so you don’t miss out on your celebrations entirely while we chat. You can even blow out the candle.
While others are coming here thinking about 400 hundred years ago, I’m here to ask you about love. I don’t know whether you are the ultimate authority on love but you’ve certainly been much quoted on the subject. Indeed, 400 years later after you died, you’re still famed for your sonnets on love, which have definitely stood the test of time.
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,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Many would say this opportunity has been wasted on me. That there’s a plethora of Shakespearean scholars and experts who would “die” to have just five minutes with you and are far more deserving. They could finally quiz you about the “Forgotten Years” and have all their conspiracy theories answered. I also wouldn’t mind having a bit of a look at now and then, exploring London 1616 and now. However, unfortunately this tour is well beyond my capabilities as I live on the other side of the globe. By that, I don’t mean the Globe Theatre, Rather, I live in Australia on the other side of the Earth. Rewinding the clock 400 years, this won’t mean a thing to you. However, you might have heard of The Great South Land or Terra Australis. Indeed, for all I know, you might believe the Earth is flat.
By the way, you’d be incredible surprised to know people have actually landed on the moon and there’s currently a telescope zooming beyond the outer reaches of our solar system. Of course, it will never reach a star but we’ve been getting some magnificent photos.
Anyway, I digress.
Returning to your views on love, my husband and I had Sonnet 116: recited at our wedding:
Let Me Not To The Marriage of True Minds.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
As time’s gone by, these words have gained a deeper resonance and meaning. After all, it’s all very well to fall madly and deeply in love with a mirage. However, what is the secret to staying in love as the image fades and reality sets in? Nobody is perfect and so often opposites attract, just as surely as opposites repel. Why engaged couples might feel overwhelmed planning a wedding and financially crippled by the expense, that’s nothing compared to what lies ahead when those two separate lanes merge. Oh boy! That’s one very bumpy road through unchartered terrain. So, perhaps, we should stop asking why marriage fails and start asking how it’s survived?
Naturally, I started to wonder about your love sonnets. So full of love, surely there had been some incredible romance worthy to also inspire what must be the greatest love story of all time: Romeo & Juliet.
Unfortunately, my search came up rather short. Although you married Anne Hathaway and had a family, that marriage seemingly lacks the spark to light the fire. After all, when it came to your Last Will and Testament all you left her was your “second best bed”
So, were these sonnets simply made up and make believe? Something you conspired to put bread on the table and pay a few bills? Or, like so many of your plays, did they take their lead from someone else and the flame burned in another writer’s heart? No matter which way I look, you remain a mystery.
That said, apparently you did write this for Anne:
Sonnet 145 Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languish’d for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she alter’d with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’
So, once again writing these letters to dead poets has become complicated, confusing and yet again, I am finding that the more I discover, the less I know. As Shelley wrote:
“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley
However, Shakespeare, when you leave people in the dark and play so hard to get, when you emerge you might find, that there’s no one left.
Mind you, your mystique has hardly impinged on your fame. Indeed, all these conspiracy theories have kept you alive.
Anyway, on that note, I must bid you adieu. Unfortunately, question time is over and my train’s about to leave.
PS: Do you know what happened to your head? Apparently, recent scans have shown that it’s no longer in your grave. Do you have any idea where it went? No doubt, you’re even haunting the thief in death!
To find out about Shakepeare’s: 400 Year Celebrations
Shakespeare’s Missing Head: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/mar/23/shakespeare-stolen-skull-grave-robbing-tale-true