In 2010, I took an English course,
which helped immensely in the search for jobs,
over the last few years, and still today.
At the beginning of the 30-weeks,
the tutor gave us handouts which explained
what was in store in the curriculum.
One of the literature books we studied was
‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by Shakespeare.
We clapped and cheered with glee and there we sat,
our faces beaming, ears hungry for
the entire joyful lesson, wanting more!
Well, actually, that’s not completely true.
As each of us, our plaintive faces fixed
upon the tutor, as he dragged us all,
painfully, through the hour and a half.
Even though I think myself to be
clued-up on literature, I must admit
I was out of my depth quite early on.
I’d little knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays
and sonnets, so the section covered by
the course and the exam filled me with dread.
We studied though, as adults back at school
– the eldest of our group was 63,
and I was 39, no longer young!
Our tutor sensed our feelings and explained
why it was normal, feeling as we did.
“How can you understand Shakespeare alone,
laid down 400 years ago or more?
Yet, patiently explained, it will become
more beautiful than anything you’ve read.”
How sure she was, and right she proved to be.
While with a friend, about a week ago,
while chatting in our normal, silly way,
he said something to which I replied “’tis!”
and we began to shoehorn “’tis” into
everything we uttered, for a while,
’till, finally, he launched into a verse:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles…”
My own ’tises truncated now, I asked
him to recite it slowly so that I
could take it in, and savour every word.
So, now, I’m taking on some Shakespeare.
I take a play or sonnet, piece by piece,
and meditate on each for long enough
to squeeze the meaning from each perfect phrase.
Because they’re short, the sonnets work the best,
since I can take one stanza at a time,
and of each little bit, savour it slow,
instead of reading reams of reams of type,
to drown in words, precluding clarity.
And so, for me, small helpings are enough,
and in this way, take longer to enjoy!
One thing to know of Shakespeare is that it’s
written in iambic pentameter,
which really is easy enough to grasp.
It just means that each line is composed of
an unstressed syllable and then a stressed,
five times to make up one line of a verse:
de-DA de-DA de-DA de-DA de-DA
‘The Taming of the Shrew’ has come to be
considered by many a sexist play,
because of Katherina’s final speech.
She speaks of her husband, ‘Petruchio’
calling him ‘lord’, pledging obedience.
And yet, the Bard created many parts
for women in an era ruled by men.
So, what do you think of this striking play?
I’d like to hear your comments down below!
Now, here’s a sonnet, sad, but full of hope:
When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress’d.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.
I find this speaks of lovers, aged by time,
who build each other up with sweet untruths.
Both flattered by and victim of their words,
whilst overlooking one-another’s faults,
their love wins over human frailty.
I like its tone. I wonder what you think.
Exeunt, pursued by a bear.