Sunday, January 28, 2007

On Shakespeare

I have been reading Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: The Biography.

It's a bit presumptuous to call any biography of Shakespeare "The Biography." There are so many gaps - for example, the several years between his marriage and his recognition in London as an actor and playwright - that we can't know for certain about some parts of his life.

Ackroyd does try to fill the gaps based on evidence in the plays and some reasonable speculation, but this is still not a definitive biography in the modern sense.

Still, it is a good read. Ackroyd provides some good insights and makes some connections that I, as an actor and playwright myself, found at least plausible. And Ackroyd is a good writer.

Chesterton had apparently been commissioned to write a book on the Bard, but died before he could do it. He did write a number of essays on Shakespeare and his plays, and Dorothy Collins collected 32 of them in Chesterton on Shakespeare, which, alas is out of print. I have not been able to find an online edition of it. My local library also does not have a copy. I may have to haunt some university libraries.

I do have an edition of A Handful of Authors, which contains "The Heroines of Shakespeare."

I also have a Chesterton poem that tickled my funny bone. So I end wiht that:

The Shakespeare Memorial

LORD Lilac thought it rather rotten
That Shakespeare should be quite forgotten,
And therefore got on a Committee
With several chaps out of the City,
And Shorter and Sir Herbert Tree,
Lord Rothschild and Lord Rosebery,
And F.C.G. and Comyns Carr
Two dukes and a dramatic star,
Also a clergy man now dead;
And while the vain world careless sped
Unheeding the heroic name --
The souls most fed with Shakespeare's flame
Still sat unconquered in a ring,
Remembering him like anything
Lord Lilac did not long remain,
Lord Lilac did not some again.
He softly lit a cigarette
And sought some other social set
Where, in some other knots or rings,
People were doing cultured things.
-- Miss Zwilt's Humane Vivarium
-- The little men that paint on gum
-- The exquisite Gorilla Girl . . .
He sometimes, in this giddy whirl
(Not being really bad at heart),
Remembered Shakespeare with a start --
But not with that grand constancy
Of Clement Shorter, Herbert Tree,
Lord Rosebery and Comyns Carr
And all the other names there are;
Who stuck like limpets to the spot,
Lest they forgot, lest they forgot.

Lord Lilac was of slighter stuff;
Lord Lilac had had quite enough.

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