Skip to main content

A never ending appreciation of the Bard

Having no choice now but to admit the presence of the black dog of depression which had been sat in the distance for some time but is now at my heels, not yet biting but there nonetheless, I turned again to the things that usually give me so much joy - the humanities - despite not being able to concentrate at full capacity and feeling like I've lost part of my memory (fog-brained) - I turn to poetry. Some studies claim that reading poetry every day is just as effective as an anti-depressant. I cannot agree, although can appreciate a tiny relief in the moment I am able to absorb a full kernel of emotion from a sentence that can often be akin to getting, in one hit, the whole poignant story of a novel length work.

However, nothing can really match the first time I read that most famous of all Shakespearean soliloquies - To be or not to be - and just being absolutely overwhelmed with sadness and joy and actually crying. Melodramatic, I know, but that's how it was. And ever since I've had this profound appreciation for Shakespeare. I turned to a book just of his sols and managed to find some humour in that from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which reminded me so much of Spike Milligan in which he asked 'who wrote me these legs':
'I think Crab my dog be the sourest-natured dog that lives. My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister cryng, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands, and all our house in a great perplexity; yet did not this cruel hearted cur shed one tear... This shoe is my father. No, this left shoe is my father. No, no, left shoe is my mother. Nay, that cannot be so neither. Yes, it is so, it is so, it hath the worser sole. This shoe with the hole in it is my mother, and this my father... This hat is Nan our maid. I am the dog. No, the dog is himself, and I am the dog. O, the dog is me, and I am myself. Ay, so, so.'
It's so absurd and brilliant - the image of the cat wringng her hands, and not being able to get the shoes right - which stands for mother, which for father? I just love it. But then I was thinking of the claims that there are some, namely the Shakespeare-Oxford Society, who claim ('explore the notion') that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the true author of the body of work known as coming from William Shakespeare. Could it really be so? Could William Shakespeare, from a modest background, really not have been able to produce these works because he lacked the courtly knowledge that de Vere would have had in buckets? But then why is the reverse question not posed? How would de Vere have been 'qualified by experience' to be able to provide legions of less than courtly characters and their ways that he may not have had day to day contact with? Whoever the real author is, over four centuries of 'Shakespeare' will never easily be changed, whatever the evidence. Whoever it was, Shakespeare or de Vere, they were certainly acquainted with the full gamut of emotion - and depression - and the knowledge, and effective expression of that, be it sad, dark or absurd. And that demands no noble birth.

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…