Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Alternative Day Out In Shakespeare Country

Here is a great essay, and the first ever Guest Blog, from my friends at No Sweat Shakespeare, who have great resources for students of all ages to learn about Shakespeare.

Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. When you visit the place for the first time it will probably be to see the many famous buildings linked to Shakespeare: the Birthplace, New Place, which Shakespeare bought when he became rich, the Trinity Church where he is buried, the grammar school he attended, and, of course, Anne Hathaway's Cottage. You may also take in a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre in the evening (and perhaps also a matinee if you're feeling enthusiastic!).

For me, though, having seen the tourist attractions many times, the perfect day out in Shakespeare country is something different.

The two greatest English geniuses have one distinctive mental quality in common. Charles Darwin used his unusual powers of observation to tell us how life itself works: William Shakespeare used those same powers of observation to create some of the most beautiful poetry in English cultural history. As he grew up he wandered around the Warwickshire countryside, taking note of plants, animals and insects, observing them closely, taking a detailed interest in the way bushes, trees, fruit and flowers developed and grew, and what they looked like and how human beings interacted with them. Like Darwin was to do, he observed birds and insects closely -- how they flew and crawled, their colors and their behavior. A stroll through the country from the town to Anne Hathaway's cottage -- something the young Will Shakespeare did daily for some time -- will allow you to put yourself in his place and see at first hand what he saw.

Shakespeare's sonnets, plays and, indeed, all his other poems, are full of poetry made from those observations. Notice the detail in such a passage as this one from A Midsummer Night's Dream:

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and nodding violet grows,
Quite over canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight."

You may come across just such a place in your walk. Shakespeare offers it to you in a way that makes you experience it with all your senses -- you can see it, feel it, smell it. You may be lucky enough, on a lovely spring day, to feel it as he did, and to enjoy the freshness of the spring, as he did.

The Bard seems to have particularly loved violets -- Warwickshire is covered with them, as you will see. He drew on his love of the flower again and again throughout his work: "Daisies pied and violets blue and lady-smocks all silver-white;" "Like the sweet sound, that breathes upon a bank of violets;" "Welcome my son: who are the violets now that strew the green lap of the new come spring?" and "From her fair and unpolluted flesh many violets spring!" are just a few examples of the violets that infuse his verse.

Let us hope that you will avoid the 'nasties' that he encountered, like:

"You spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blindworms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy Queen."

But you may be luck enough to see a country sport like this:

"As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye, Or russet-pated choughs, many in sort, rising and cawing at the gun's report, sever themselves and madly sweep the sky"

Will you stop and observe beetles as Shakespeare did, and if so could you use your observations to create images that will endure forever as part of the English language? Such things as "the shard-born beetle with his drowsy hums" and the famous insult, "Thou art a saucy beetle-headed boar-pig!" are everywhere in Shakespeare's poetry. And what would we do without the phrase "beetle-browed?"

Another advantage of my stroll around Shakespeare's country is that my conviction that the country boy, Shakespeare, has to be the author of the plays and poems is always confirmed. No-one could have written them other than someone who grew up in Warwickshire and none of his posited rivals for the authorship were country lads from Warwickshire!

I hope that you will spend one of the days you visit Stratford taking that country walk.

-- By Warren King, NoSweat Shakespeare