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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Will in the World, textual biography, Stratford Man,Canada Air, memo to me.

I read Will in the World on the plane. Alas, it doesn't really do anything new with the current state of Shakespearean wankery. (I'm a Shakespeare wanker myself, so I don't feel too guilty choosing that terminology.)

It purports to be a book about how the world Will lived in shaped his storytelling--and it does manage a little bit of that, but I don't think it's told me anything that I didn't know from Shakespeare of London or whatever the heck that book was called, although it's what, thirty years more current?

Sadly, it doesn't do much of this. Instead, it resorts to the time-honored masturbatory Shakespeareologist technique of biography by textual analysis. Memo to the academics: Anthony Burgess, Sarah Hoyt, myself, and the rest are allowed to do this, because we are fiction writers. We are writing fiction, not biography.

Oh, look. And now you're writing fiction, too.


Anyway, it's less cracktastic than the Wood book. But it doesn't have any maps. And it presents as fact a bunch of stuf that's educated guess or speculation. Also, Greenblatt doesn't seem to notice (in his careful ranging of textual evidence to demonstrate Will's (purported) crappy relationship with his wife and his (purported) closeness to Susannah and Hamnet) when he contradicts his own arguments.

Despite all this, the chapter on the sonnets is rather good, for fiction.

Also, I dunno why all Will's biographers have the unholy need to vilify Kit so heavily. Let's face it: Marlowe was better, younger, but he died while he was still more or less writing his juvenilia (Scary ass juvenilia, but.) and the surviving cannon is no competition to Will's. At least Greenblatt pauses to give him his chops as a writer between vilifications, which is something Wood can't manage to do.

(And why does vilify only have one ell ?)

He's just not a threat to Will's place in the firmament, guys; you don't have to tell me again what an awful horrid person he was. Also, Ben Jonson barely rates a mention, and Tom Greene gets the most of a chapter? WTF?

I did learn a few things about Peele I didn't know, though, so it was useful on that front.

It's nicely written, though, and the actual literary analysis rocks beyond whining about--especially the Hamlet chapter--and it has a lovely cover.

Now I have to buy and read Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life, The World of Christopher Marlowe (which I sort of hold out hope will be the book that Will in the World was supposed to be), and Tamburlaine Must Die one of these lifetimes. And probably mock those too.

Cultural relevance:

American commercial aircraft say NO STEP on the wings where you aren't supposed to walk. Canada Air planes say DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA where you are supposed to walk.

In America, they tell you what's forbidden. In Canada, they tell you what's allowed.

Somehow, I find that very telling about the often subtle differences between our two sister nations.

The memo to me part:

Memo to me, memo to me:

(The Stratford Man revision notes)

  1. Please, for the love of Mike, Bear, make the whole plot point revolving around the Jew plays make some freaking sense, would you?
  2. Fix the stupid thing you did with Poley's brat. You know the one I mean.
  3. Will really needs to be a little less achingly naive at the top of the book. You're not Sarah Hoyt. He can stay earnest, though. That's okay.
  4. When dealing with Shakespeare and Marlowe, you really never can have too many penis jokes.


Shakespeare! *faints* :D

Have you read Shakespeare's Language by Frank Kermode? 'Cause that just makes me go all "ooooh" :)
Nope, I haven't. I actually avoid lit crit when I can. *g* I majored in it.
I think I asked you about this book, in your LJ, a few months ago.

Now I know to stay away.
It's worth reading if you haven't read a recent Shakespeare biography. *g*
When dealing with Shakespeare and Marlowe, you really never can have too many penis jokes.

You are so not wrong.

And may I just say, for the record, that I LOATHE biographical criticism.* It's sloppy and fallacious (at best it assumes that all fiction is autobiographical which, hello? wtf?) and it makes me want to shake the critics who do it until they turn into bobble-headed dogs.

I most especially hate it in connection with Mr. S's sonnets, but it will give me conniption fits in any context.

The relationship between fiction and the fiction-creator's life--except in the rare cases where someone has chosen to write that strange Frankensteinian hybrid called the autobiographical novel--is much more subtle, byzantine, and counter-intuitive than any biographical criticism I have ever read. In my experience, biographical criticism is always reductive, and therefore false. The interface between the human mind and the stories it tells itself is a wonderous, incalculable, delicate and incredibly strong mechanism (and I mean "mechanism" is a sort of glorious, gilded, steampunk way, where you don't know what half the gears and levers and dials are doing, or how they work together, but it doesn't matter because they're so damn beautiful) and always greater than the sum of its parts.

That's the problem, I think. Biographical criticism assumse there's some sort of equation that can be balanced between life and fiction, and there isn't.

*Which is not the same as historical fiction. I may or may not enjoy a particular story which uses historical personages, but I don't automatically regard the endeavor as intellectually bankrupt (although the recent fad for mysteries in which painfully unlikely people are detectives--Edgar Allan Poe? wt*F*?--is perilously close to constituting itself an exception).
you really never can have too many penis jokes.

Doesn't need the qualifier. Just for the record.
we're not all as cool as you. *g*

re: cultural relevance

Actually, the "do not walk outside this area" signs are for visiting Americans. Canadians know where not to walk...

Re: cultural relevance

I talke it back. If you let random strangers walk on your planes, you're not as smart as I assumed you were.
Do you know any good books about Marlowe?
Oh, lawsy.

My advice is to read the plays and the poetry. And *then* the biography and the criticism, because I think they're almost universally wrong.

The fact we *know* about Kit can be written on a 3x5 card, literally.

His name was Christofer Marley: so he was baptized, and so he signed himself. One signature survives, a witness on another man's will. His intimates called him Kit.

He was the eldest son of a Cambridge cobbler, who was probably a violent man, and he had a fistful of sisters and one small brother, Tom. He attended King's School in Cambridge on a scholarship. (Grammar school was free to all English boys--the great Gift of Great Harry. Secondary edication was a gentleman's game, and it cost.)

From King's School he went to Oxford. Christ Church. Also as a scholarship student. At first, his expenditures there were parsimonious, within the limits of his pauper's portion.

Later, he spent extravagantly.

His tenure at university was oft-interrupted, and he only recieved a degree because the privy council wrote a letter to the university explaining that his absences had been in service to the crown.

These items have lead many to conjecture that he was, beginning in university, an agent of Francis Walsingham's. Especially as he was a friend of Thomas Watson, who is also though to have been a spy for the queen's spymaster. But that's conjecture. We have no proof.

He wrote the translation of Ovid and probably his first play, a treatment of Queen Dido, in university.

He went to London.

He travelled to the Netherlands, with which England was at war, and was arrested for counterfeiting, a capital crime.

He went free.

He was arrested--with Tom Watson--for duelling, and the murder of William Bradley in Hog Lane. He went a free man again.

In London, by 1691, at the age of 27, he was the acknowleged master of the theatre. About his personal life we know nothing, except he was Thomas Kyd's roomate and Thomas Watson's friend and Thomas Walsingham (the nephew of the above Sir Francis) was his patron--and, many suspect, lover. And some--notably Anthony Burgess--suspect, architect of his murder.

In London, he created the Rennaisance drama as we know it from Shakespeare's pen. The blank verse line. "Marlowe's mighty line," as Ben Jonson called it. It was Shakespeare who brought the brilliance and complexity of character forward--Kit, unlike Will, does not *like* men (although he will write women sympathetically, even women whom history treats ill) and invariably, his male characters get what they deserve.

Which is an awful, bloody, earned death.

He may have been the intmate of Sir Walter Ralegh, of Northumberland, and an initiate of the School of Night, their arcane mystery society.

In my estimation, he was--at the age of 29--a better poet than Shakespeare. But Shakespeare was humane. And Kit was not.

In 1593, Tom Kyd was arrested and tortured because of some allegedly atheistic papers in his quarters. Under torture, he attested they belonged to Marlowe.

Kyd called Marlowe "intemperate & of a cruel heart," but another--Marston, I think--called him "Kind Kit." I have a sense of a mercurial man, elusive, febrile.

Part of the hostility towards Marlowe probably stems from the rantings of the Marlovians and their insistence that Marlowe WAS Shakespeare, so there, whine spout stamp fuss. They are so terribly annoying, it's hard not to let it leak over onto their original victim, who probably had no desire whatsoever to be anybody else.

The Oxfordians are worse.

at least Kit had the chops.

I mean, say what you will, the man could write.....
One of the theories I loathe the most about Shakespeare's private life is the seemingly universally acknowledged truth that since he spent most of his time in London, you know, doing his job and stuff, he MUST have hated his wife.


A lot of marriages worked like that. Heck, some still do work like that! Doesn't mean the partners all hate each other.

My dad's a, um...would you call it a Baconite? Baconian? Every time I bring up Shakespeare, he mentions that Francis Bacon wrote the plays, which is apparently an inviolate truth because he read it in a book somewhere. *grin*
Alas. If he were a Oxfordian, you could mention that Oxford was a pederast. But they were all nancy boys. It doesn't signify. *g*
You may want to take a look at this:


Bardworld! Seems the UK is going for it, Shakespeare-wise.

Geoff Ryman has just bought a book called (IIRC) SECRET SHAKESPEARE, which is out in hardback. We met the author during an interview at Lancaster - he was one of those rather urbane academics. He was having a nosebleed on a bus when we met him.
I am such a geek. Part of my reaction to the article was "Ooh! Gary Taylor has a new book on Shakespeare coming out?"
Books on how Shakespeare got to be Shakespeare: have you read Jan Mark's Stratford Boys? I found it fascinating as a study of a writer at work (but then I'm a sucker for that stuff) - and funny with it.
(And why does vilify only have one ell ?)

Different etymology from villain.

Vilify is derived from the Latin vilem, vilis "of low value or price, cheap, common, mean, base." ("'Beautified' is a vile phrase.")

Villain is related to villa and twinned with villein. "Originally, a low-born base-minded rustic; a man of ignoble ideas or instincts; in later use, an unprincipled or depraved scoundrel; a man naturally disposed to base or criminal actions, or deeply involved in the commission of disgraceful crimes."

You are so very useful to know.

Thank you!