April 23, 2014

Shakespeare's 450th birthday.

It's today, presumably.

How will you celebrate? May I recommend searching for some word — search here — and telling us in the comments what word you searched for and what you found that was interesting? I decided to search for "America," and it appears only once in all of Shakespeare, in "The Comedy of Errors." Dromio is describing a woman whose width is the same as her height, so "she is spherical, like a globe," and he can find all the countries on her body. Antipholus proceeds to ask where various countries are. Ireland, according to Dromio, is "in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs." Scotland is in the palm of the hand, France is in the forehead, England in the chin, Spain was not seen but felt ("hot in her breath")....

"Where America, the Indies?" asks Antipholus, and Dromio says:
Oh, sir, upon her nose all o'er embellished with
rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich
aspect to the hot breath of Spain; who sent whole
armadoes of caracks to be ballast at her nose.
There's only one more question: "Where stood Belgia, the Netherlands?" And the punchline answer is "Oh, sir, I did not look so low."

Anyway, America, the nose, seems to be all of the new world, and Spain is sending a fleet of ships to get whatever can be drained out of it. And that's all America was to Shakespeare — a big, pimpled, runny nose... for Spain.


James Pawlak said...

I will celebrate by remembering "Jack The Butcher" and his advise on lawyers.

CatherineM said...

Doesn't look a day over 430...

Unknown said...

At some point, the true author, Edward de Vere will get his due.

There's a fascinating blog called 'Quakespeare Shorterly' (it's not mine) that delves into what Shake-speare's contemporaries were saying about who the author was. It was an open secret at the time that the man from Stratford was the front for a nobleman.

traditionalguy said...

Shakespeare did his writing during the era of the constant plots and outright attacks (Spanish Armada) from Spain's King backed by the Pope to take England back from Elizabeth I's rule. So Will was not in favor of Spain's ways.

England would not get into the America business until 1607-1620 when some merchants set out for Jamestown and the Puritans set out for Cape Cod.

Richard Dolan said...

My word was 'claret', and like America it appears only once in Shakespeare. Jack Cade in Henry VI, part II says:

"Now is Mortimer lord of this city. And here, sitting upon London-stone, I charge and command that, of the city's cost, the pissing-conduit run nothing but claret wine this first year of our reign. And now henceforward it shall be treason for any that calls me other than Lord Mortimer."

Quite the image, that "pissing-conduit" that will run "nothing but claret wine" in Lord Mortimer's first year. Amazing what heights of self-absorbed craziness politicians can reach when they want to celebrate the Wonderfulness of Me. Remind you of anyone?

Amichel said...

First Result for the word "gay".

To him again: tell him he wears the rose
Of youth upon him; from which the world should note
Something particular: his coin, ships, legions,
May be a coward's; whose ministers would prevail
Under the service of a child as soon
As i' the command of Caesar: I dare him therefore
To lay his gay comparisons apart,
And answer me declined, sword against sword,
Ourselves alone. I'll write it: follow me.

The bit about sword against sword made my guffaw.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

There's a theory that The Tempest, Shakespeare's last play, is set in the Caribbean and was partly inspired by the 1609 wreck of the English ship Sea Venture in Bermuda:

Safely in harbour
Is the king's ship; in the deep nook, where once
Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
From the still-vex'd Bermoothes; there she's hid...

wildswan said...

My word was "potato" and it appears twice. Potatoes were from the New World and took a while to become important. They seem to be regarded as ludicrous and somehow sexual by Shalespeare, probably because of their shape. Falstaff and Thersites mention them in connection with seductions.

Falstaff: My doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.

Thersites: How the devil Luxury, with his fat rump and potato-finger, tickles these together! Fry, lechery, fry!

Unknown said...

The OED cites usage of the word 'potato' back to 1565.

Strittmatter and Kositsky's "Dating of the Tempest" book released last year effectively destroyed the 'new world - 1609' theory of that play.

Big Mike said...

Except that in 1564 England was using the Julian Calendar so there's actually an 11 day difference.

southcentralpa said...

For myself, I remember when "cuz" was cutting-edge Black slang (in the sense of "cousin" and a replacement at that time for "homeboy").

So, imagine my surprise when I saw it in Macbeth ...

PDG9 said...

Since "Unknown" (nice touch, that) is making claims here that someone other than "Shakespeare" wrote all the stuff attributed to him, I think I should point out that the case for Edward de Vere or Francis Bacon or Whoever Else as the true author only started centuries after Shakespeare died. Bacon got first credit as the true author, a theory started by a woman named Bacon no less, and then Mark Twain picked up on it, and Hellen Keller(!), and so on until it became an industry. For sure someone has to make a case against "The Tempest" getting written before 1609 because otherwise de Vere couldn't have written it, having died in 1604.

There are many books re the question of who was Shakespeare. I prefer James Shapiro's "Contested Will" for the historical development of the counter theory. In 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that someone other than that guy from Stratford was "Shakespeare", but the votes did not split along traditional lines.

Myself, I think the idea that anyone other than Shakespeare was "Shakespeare" is hogwash (a word that does not appear in any of the texts).

David said...

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”

George M. Spencer said...


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


Mike said...

Don't know about his birthday, but April 23, 1616 is the date of his death. Also the death date for Miguel de Cervantes, by the way. http://bib.cervantesvirtual.com/bib_autor/Cervantes/biografia_12.shtml

SJ said...

@Big Mike,

good to remember.

@Unknown, @PDG9,
I would personally favor Shakespeare as the famous playwright.

However, I do remember a short story about that subject by novelist Connie Willis. She postied that the historical Shakespeare was actually another playwright who had to assume the identity of William Shakespeare for some reason.

That version of "who was the real Shakespeare" might be plausible to me, if I knew more about the issue at hand.

Æthelflæd said...

Yeah, it was Oxford. Deal with it, delusional Stratfordians!

tim in vermont said...

"At some point, the true author, Edward de Vere will get his due."

So, do we have any writings proven to be his to compare to Shakespeare?

tim in vermont said...

"At some point, the true author, Edward de Vere will get his due."

So, do we have any writings proven to be his to compare to Shakespeare?

Rusty said...

'Who is this jester but an ass. A wit by half."

cassandra lite said...

I searched for Obama. It came up zero. I wish I could say the same for me.

Big Mike said...

Whether it was Wm. Shakespeare who wrote the plays and sonnets, or someone else, whoever it was was a genius and deserves our respect. All of the Elizabethans are centuries dead, but the words will live on as long as English is read and spoken.

tim in vermont said...


The above link is to poetry known to have been written by Edward de Vere.

He ain't no Shakespeare. It is doggerel.

Clyde said...

And why wouldn't it have been? Shakespeare died in 1616. when the only English colony in North America was Jamestown. Spain had become rich on its ill-gotten spoils from the New World. England's take only came from privateers raiding Spanish commerce.

Big Mike said...

Not to mention as long as his words are spoken in the original Klingon.