Friday, February 06, 2009

Pounds Sterling and the Shakespeare Brand

(Creative Commons image by unknowndomain)

On the online magazine Suite101, writer Linda Sue Grimes has been posting some short summaries of scores of Shake-speare Sonnets, keeping a watchful eye on the peculiar parallels between Edward de Vere's life and times and the events and times chronicled in those immortal poems.

Grimes' latest piece, posted yesterday, is on a personal favorite of mine, Sonnet 111. Sonnet and clips after the jump.


O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued

To what it works in, like the dyer's hand:
Pity me then and wish I were renew'd;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eisel 'gainst my strong infection
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.

Lines 2-6 (ital.) contain a key part of the entire Shake-speare story, neatly summarized in iambs: The author's "harmful deeds" leads to "public means" to "provide for [his] life." But going on the dole breeds "public manners" which brings about a "brand" that almost subdues the author's nature. (In his 30s, de Vere went on the public dole, receiving a royal grant of a thousand pounds per year for the rest of his life, a grant that King James renewed during de Vere's final year on this mortal coil.)

It's amazing, really, what an unadorned confession those five lines are.

Here's Grimes:

His name becomes “a brand,” quite possibly the reason he used the pseudonym, “William Shakespeare.” At least this way, he keeps a portion of his privacy and dignity.

He reveals to the Muse that his nature, while working the plays, takes on the tincture of theatre life, “like the dyer’s hand,” and he begs the Muse to take pity on him and “wish [he] were renew’d.”

More of her sonnet-by-sonnet discussions here.


jhm said...

[OT] You're last post is apparently giving Blogspot indigestion (perhaps it's the Baco-bits); it shows up on the RSS feed, but is unavailable here.

Mark said...

Heh. Yeah, jhm, I started rewriting and re-rewriting and re-re-rewriting (etc.) that post and ultimately ended up scrapping it because I had to work on other, non-Shakespeare, stuff. It's a post that will probably just have to be written off as feed for the black hole at the center of the Internets.