Competition 32 Report
Varied views of the life and works of the autobiographically enigmatic poet, actor, dramatist, director, impresario, property owner and Stratford worthy emerged from the entries of those, a goodly number in the end, who defied the curse and attempted to clothe the bones in new or old words.
Some were duly respectful, but others belligerently iconoclastic about the Swine of Avon, since, as Martin Parker observed, ‘If A. A. Milne had been the Bard/English lessons would be less hard.’ Martin John concurred, reckoning the works of ‘this bald remembered cove/That sits atop the cover’ were the cause of ‘anguish beyond measure’.
Geoff Lander, noting the rubric’s mention of the New Place kitchen and cellar excavations, came up with the wittiest title, “Is this a digger which I see before me?”, before declaring, ‘Most regard cold stores as inconsequential/ but English buffs claim every detail's essential.’, while Daniel Galef floated the possibility of A Comedy of Eros, and reminded us that ‘the Bard had sticky fingers/When it came to names or witty zingers.’
Commiserations to all three, as well as Susan Jarvis, and D.A.Prince (a cento), and congratulations to the winners. Below, in no particular order, are the entries that survived to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the passing of the Warwickshire Wonder.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone read Shakespeare's works once more,
I sometimes wonder, why the thous and thys?
Did Shakespeare never just say you and your?
And what's with 'tis, methinks, and by my troth?
Or hitherto? Or thitherward? Or thence?
And who on earth would use a word like doth?
To say the man's a genius makes no sense.
Yet then, as I delve deeper line by line
And start forgetting that his words are dated,
I scarcely notice every thee and thine
And stop believing that he's overrated,
For underneath his ancient way of speaking
I find the modern truths I had been seeking.
Four hundred years ago, on April twenty-third,
A noted individual
Said "It's been great being amid you all,
But now I must bid you all
Farewell." And William Shakespeare died, leaving, for us to
His sonnets, poems, and plays.
It's not hard
To extol and indeed venerate The Bard,
Who developed each persona
In "The Two Gentlemen of Verona",
"Macbeth", "King Lear", and "Othello" (featuring Desdemona),
As well as "Richard the Third", "Henry the Fifth", and "The Taming of
To name a few.
Here's to this amazing husband of Anne Hathaway's,
Who opened glorious and rewarding literary pathaways!
William Shakespeare (@ShakespeareWi)
is now following you on Twitter!
- Actual Twitter notification feed.
He’s back—of course he is! I should have known.
What artist of his stature could resist
a chance to fret about the Eurozone
and mill our century's dramatic grist?
I eagerly look up his latest tweet,
expecting links to Will and Kate, Part II
and Summer’s Tale, or Climate Change Compleat . . .
but find − uh oh − mere quotes from Much Ado.
Sighing, I track him down on Instagram
and Tumblr, where he does his daily duty
of sharing brunch pix − “Wherefore ‘lo-carb jam’?” −
and praising “Dame Kardashian’s beauteous booty”;
then Facebook, where he likes Dog Nurses Kitten,
and posts, “Alack! Why can’t I get more written?”
Shakespeare, you should be living at this hour,
Actors have need of you: they are ensnared
In mad examples of directors' power,
New versions of your dramas premièred.
OK, your plays have timeless relevance,
Your characters are universal still
But players aren't given half a chance
To voice your lines as you intended, Will.
They're made to prance on quasi-modern sets,
Carry Kalashnikovs and mobile phones,
And very soon an audience regrets
They've paid to watch these far from perfect clones.
Since time nor tide nor fashion's change can leave
Your plays in peace, we watch today and grieve.
Had he been killed at twenty-nine,
No play of his would equal mine.
Richard the Third his greatest text!
And what might I have written next?
He stole from me a thing or two:
My mighty line, my scheming Jew.
I hoped someday the world would know
The Swan of Avon was a crow.
Alas, the world's become his stage.
Bardolatry is all the rage,
While I who died, died ere my prime,
Am sore neglected much the time.
I'm solaced in the afterlife
To hear my favourite rumour's rife
And has a hundred years abided:
Bill never wrote his plays, for I did.
Set no sad stone for me when I am dead,
I do not wish to be a tourist site
Disturbed by earnest swarms with heavy tread
Whose jostling steals my silence and my light.
What interest should man seek in my grave?
There'll be no secrets to be gleaned from dust.
Let him to barren study be no slave.
My history, I beg you, take on trust.
If all the world’s an overcrowded stage
And all its actors into dust must fall,
Pray grant my dust, for this and every age,
Deliv’rance from a daily curtain call.
But, though my Book is closed, its chapters see;
All me is there and all that’s there was me.
“You are old – nay, deceased! – Mr. William”, he said,
“And four hundred winters have passed,
Yet although you're long dead, you are still widely read –
Do you think such distinction can last?”
“In my youth”, said the Bard, “I would tipple and lust,
Giving never a thought to old age,
But I came, as I must, to the merest of dust,
So I hope to survive on the page.”
“You are dead, Mr William, yet strangely naïve,
For you still have a bee in your bonnet:
Do you really believe you can somehow achieve
Immortality thanks to a sonnet?”
“Pray allow me, good Sir”, said the Bard, “to remark
That your question doth cause me to chortle.
Fear no more, then, the dark; with my verse and your Snark,
We are both of us truly immortal.”
1616! So there you made your exit
From life and all the petty cares that vex it
And left a wealth of ink and words behind you
Through which historians must rake to find you
In deeds, church registers, tithes, taxes, rent,
One letter to you that was filed (unsent)
A sale to Stratford council (load of stone)
Bequests to friends and fellows, sister Joan,
The Mountjoy witness statements, heralds’ notes,
Critics’ attacks, verse praise, stray anecdotes,
But nothing personal from your own pen
Except perhaps in sonnets now and then.
Escaping 2016’s tabloid gaze
You leave us free to watch and read your plays.