He noted what made them attractive in youth. Some even had bawdy content but the wit was charming. The sonnets in the plays are particularly poignant.
Illustrations from boyhood speech in school mimicking Shakespeare demonstrate the liberating influence he had.
A year ago Joe decided he owed something to Master Shakespeare and would repay him partially by gathering people for a festival celebrating his words on his 450th Birth Anniversary. His talk ended with a sonnet of homage.
To read more click below ...
When I was twenty or twenty one, I had a crush on a girl. The experience was heady and infatuation took its course. None of the thrill is lost, for I used to keep a journal in those days and the encounters are all described, pretty chaste by today’s standards, and certainly by those of Shakespeare. The hope in which I dressed myself in those days was certainly drunk. I experienced the extremes of elation and despair, but still maintained a great regard for the object of my desire.
It was about that time I undertook a more extensive reading of the sonnets of Shakespeare. In his sonnets he followed the course of Love in its many hues and moods.
So there, you have a rondo of Sonnets (numbered 18, 116, 138, 97, 147, and 87) which together give a fairly complete account of love's trajectory!
Wouldn't it exhilarate a young person to come across all this by himerself, naive and untutored, poring over a slim volume of Shakespeare's sonnets? They are not sugar’d, they are plain as you can see if you read the first lines – the diction is straightforward. Hence, the reason that they affect us so, must be found in the sure ring of truth as the poet's thoughts unfold in eager discourse. And I find the entire Sonnet 87, the farewell sonnet, transcribed in my journal of those times, when I finally had to let go of that juvenile amour.
Not much later I read about the risqué, unbridled, writing of Shakespeare from Eric Partridge’s book, Shakespeare’s Bawdy, though there were intimations of it even in a play we read in high school, Macbeth. Undoubtedly, Elizabethan audiences enjoyed this bit of bawdy humour thrown into a searing dramatic play that is full of horrors. But for a real taste of Shakespeare’s unalloyed delight in dwelling on the inferior canals of the body, with wit and realism combined, we have to go to Othello.
It's the wit. You can’t forget the phrase (quite different from Macbeth: By the pricking of my thumbs, /Something wicked this way comes). Then you realise how many modern sex words come from Shakespeare. This brings to mind one of his sonnets in which WS marvellously mixes his own name with an array of punning and bawdy such as will never been seen again. I refer to his sonnet 135 in which the word 'will' is used thirteen times in seven different meanings:
And Will to boot, and Will in overplus;
When fooling with other lads in exaggerated speech in high school, we thought we were imitating actors on the Elizabethan stage. So we’d pile on alliteration and punning with rhyme:
Think you to steal my heart with flattery? Rather do I steel my soul against your flattery!
Or again playing chess,
Upon my pike I’ll have your head.
We learned too we could stand up and declaim our speech to the world. Let speech go forth with an emphatic wrenching of the mouth and a forceful blast of air from our lungs. Speech, real speech, was meant to be thus. Not to speak meekly like a schoolboy to the master, but to speak like a man to another man in the heat of emotion. Shakespeare may have had an effect in liberating our breath when speaking, for it did not seem he wrote his plays to be softly read to oneself, but to be spoken energetically to an audience. This surely boosted our later debating lives in college.
Of course, poetry too has this effect of leaving one dissatisfied with prose, but none of us students then had the gift to poetise. There were future scientists, accountants, businessmen, doctors, journalists, and so on, among us – but no poets. Shakespeare on the other hand we could mimic at least, for the people spoke in his plays, perhaps in an elevated way; but they rarely recited poetry with a few exceptions, such as Romeo and Juliet’s duelling with a sonnet in the dance scene above.
They tell you that the iambic pentameter is the natural rhythm of speech in English, but I vouch it is not the natural rhythm of the prose we write nowadays, and therefore it takes a great deal of effort to refashion modern prose, however eloquent it might be, into blank verse. But I can see for a professional dramatist in those Elizabethan times it would have become a habit after some practice to compose in blank verse. Such an underlying metrical structure actually liberated their imagination and lent a cadence to the speech, and was easier to memorise. It lay at the very foundation of the ability to declaim those great soliloquies in Shakespeare. He was using a tool superbly, that anyone else can use too, with practice. Even when you fall short it still gives an elevation.
You can hear a discussion of Shakespeare in India where Barbara Bogaev interviews Jyotsna Singh, Professor of English at Michigan State University, and Modhumita Roy, Associate Professor of English at Tufts. They discuss the impact of Shakespeare’s writing on Indian theatre; and, how Indian theater shaped and altered Shakespeare’s work.
To end, here is a Sonnet; it’s my homage to William Shakespeare: