Origins of Poetry

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The Ancient Greek timeline of poetry lasted from the 7th to 4th century BC, and are believed to be the first civilisation to commit their poems to the written word.  They went on to produce most of the classic forms of literature, drama and poetry, and their great poets handed down their observations to the next and next generations.

Hesiod the 7th century Greek poet who wrote of a farmer’s life and Theogony, a genealogy of the God’s.

Pindar a 5th – 6th century lyric poet credited with writing ode’s to their victorious athlete’s.

Sappho a 7th century poet and she wrote of passionate love songs in a lyrical form.

The Ancient Greek’s period of culture ended when they were conquered firstly by Alexander the Great between (356-323 BC) and then again by the might of Rome in (250-150 BC).

The Romans went on to develop their own style of literary and poetic works, using the Greek form as their base.  From these humble beginnings the creation of a modern style of literature so began.

During the 11th – 13th centuries, the mighty Popes of the Holy Roman Empire and the Middle Ages banned creative and artistic expression.

People wanted to express themselves, and so in the mid 11th century a group of troubadour musicians in Southern France sang and wrote lyrics.  They were much influenced by the ways and lifestyle of the Arabic civilisation and Omar Khayyam and Rumi, having been inspired by Latin and Greek poets, and not of this land.  With an understanding, the musicians and poets went forth and created a refreshingly new style by the 13th century.

Early troubadours started life as singing poets, but the true masters included the likes of Bertrand de Born, Arnaud Daniel, and Marie de France, and their style of works influenced the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer and Dante Alighieri.  It was not uncommon to see the delivery of news, and performance styled sketches in a lyrical manner.

This has been referred to as the Provencal Movement of the 13th century and by the mid 14th century; most troubadours had fled to Italy and Spain to join the Sicilian School of poets.

For Frederick II let it be known he required poets to write about courtly love, and so it was between 1230 and 1266 many canzone’s (An Italian lyrical form of varying lengths, intended to be set to music, mainly based on romantic themes) were written.

A group of Sicilian poets in the court of Frederick II, were able to turn verses of love into a spiritual heartbeat, a style that would show its face during the Elizabethan and Shakespearean times.

With the 12th century, Sicily integrated the languages and cultural influences of Arabic, Greek and Latin, creating the perfect form for their lyrical poetry.

It all started with Cielo of Alcamo, a court poet, who created a form of lyrical poetry.  From these early beginnings, the court poets used lyrical poetry and the canzone style which became the standard verse of the day.  Yet like all new styles, someone was waiting in the wings to change it, and in this case it was Giacomo de Lentini, who re-invented it into a sonnet.

Giacomo de Lentini, proved himself to be more than that of a poet, for it was he who went on to create a new language: Italian.

With the help of Sicilian poets, they abolished repetitive and what has become known as interchangeable lines.  They also believed poetry was for reading, not as an accompaniment to music and created a 14 – line sonnet structure, which is still used by many poets to this day.

The works and styles of Sicilian poets came to the attention of Dante as the 14th century loomed, who spread them through Florence, and the literary heartlands.

As the Renaissance period burst into existence, shining its light upon a new era in time.  Scholars from many European countries keenly watched with interest, as a cultural awakening was taking place across Europe.

As the Italian Renaissance waned, its greatest poetic export was that of ballad and sonnet, which found their way to England with the assistance of Thomas Wyatt.

Christopher Marlowe-1585

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was responsible for the creation of the unrhymed verse, as used by him for his plays.  He died early, and so William Shakespeare fashioned the style of the blank verse in a form which would meet the requirements of his plays.

Sonnets swept through England during the latter part of the 16th and early 17th century, through the writings of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sydney and William Shakespeare, each adding their own individual touches.

Poets of the Elizabethan era had more freedom in their writings, and so the human side became the new genre in writing.  One could say that the Elizabethan times, showed a slight resemblance to the early works of Ancient Greek.

John Milton

John Milton

The Greatest Renaissance poet would have to be John Milton (1608-1674) who wrote Paradise Lost, which was published in 1667.  An interesting fact though, by 1652 he was blind and worked as a Latin Secretary to one Oliver Cromwell, assisted by Andrew Marvel (1621-1678) a Metaphysical Poet.

Nearly a century later, a new breed arose, the Metaphysical Poets who wrote of nature, philosophy and love, starting with John Dryden.  They were known as men of learning, and they wanted to show off their abilities to one and all.

Metaphysical Poetry concluded when William Blake bridged the gap between it, and that of romantic poetry.  Poets were known to look beyond the obvious, a style which would influence the American Transcendentalism, like those of Samuel Cowley, Andrew Marvell and Katherine Philips.

England’s time had arrived with the dawning of the Romantic Poets era, a period which lasted between (1790-1824), yet went on to produce many works written by the masters which we still read to this day.

These poets included the likes of:

William Blake

William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) An English painter and poet, who enhanced his work with illustrations as can be seen in his works “Songs of Innocence.”

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) An English poet, whose heart showed much support for the French Revolution, which shows through his works, and a love for the English countryside.

Lord Byron (1788-1824) A romantic poet, who supported Italian Independence and the Greek revolt against Turkey.  Often remembered for his sexual scandals, which saw the English society turn their backs on him.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Writer of romantic poems, and remembered for; “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) Writer who got himself expelled from Oxford University for co-writing “The Necessity of Atheism.”  Yet he went on to write “Ode to a skylark,” and other poems which reflected his idealism and radical thoughts on politics.

John Keats (1795-1821) Another of the English poets who wrote “Ode to a Nightingale,” and “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

They wrote together, travelled together and lived together.

They made nature a more important part of their works, with more expression and passion, as to challenge the minds and imaginations of their readers … in so doing they planted a seed, which would flourish into a relationship.

Another poet who would be remembered for his works would be Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) for “The Lotus Eaters.”

A new era replaced the Romantic Movement in 1836; the American Transcendentalists, for they believed in expression of their thoughts through the written word.

They changed people’s ideas on poetry, and studied utopian values, spiritual exploration, and into the artistic side.  Their ideals brought authors, poets and social leaders to their door, and so they grew.

The 19th century saw the American; Gerald Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), put forward natural speech and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) create the free-verse style of poetry.

French poet; Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) put forward the idea that poetry should contain an air of vagueness and music within poems.

The first Surrealist Movement manifesto was drawn up by Andre Breton the French poet in 1924, asking poets to explore the world of dreams, sub consciousness and hallucinations in their works.

American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) promoted the works of W.B.Yeats (1865-1939) and T.S.Elliot (1888-1965).

In 1948, with the Second World War over, we saw the emergence of what became known as the Beat Movement.  The style was based on characters and interests, who desired to live life, as they wished to.

It was the beginning of the narrative free verse written by Allen Ginsberg, it was all about free expression.  In 1956 he published a collection of works entitled “Howl.”  So it was that these beat poets as they had been referred to, created a new appreciation in the love of poetry.

As the interest grew, more beat poets surfaced, like; Joanne Kyger, Herbert Huncke, LeRoi Jones, to move the art of poetry further forward.

The history of poetry has had a long and mixed relationship with the reader as the styles have changed.  For in the early days, the definition of poetic writings focused on nature, love, drama and song and later concentrated on repetition and rhyme and how it would read and sound.

Poetry has been used to expand the literal meaning of words, to evoke an emotional feeling or a sensual response…

Poetry has often been referred to, as a way a poet, can create poems as a need to escape the logical side of life.

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Development of Poetry

Medieval man writing

We can’t conclusively say when poems first started being recited, but we can state poetry is known to pre-date the written word.

Ancient cultural myths, tales and legends were passed down through history, in a form of poetic expression, which in turn would be told to the next generation.

Poetry came of age, with the introduction of reading and writing.  As poetry evolved, so did the poetic structures, into three main genres: Epic, Lyric and Dramatic poetry.

We associate poetry as the spoken word.  However, minstrels were known to take poems, add music and sing out the words, in performances throughout Europe.

It is said that the Sanskrit epic by Ramayana, written in the 3rd Century BC may have been in Latin, and contained an early form of poetry.  Columbus in 1492 used an alphabet song for letters in the alphabet, and a jingle for names in the month.

The 19th and 20th century saw a change in poetry; a new style was created by a new breed of poets.

John Keats:  English Romantic poet with a connection to physical rather than an intellectual style within his work.

William Wordsworth: English poet showed support for the French Revolution.

Thomas Hardy: English poet with deep empathy for the natural world.

William Yeats: Irish poet whose early works were based on Irish Myths and Fairy Tales, but his works became more personal in later life.

Writings of the 1930’s revolved around violence and political scandal, with links to the war.  By the end of the 1940’s, the Second World War was over, and we saw an emerging group of romantic poets, writing about the area in which they lived.  With the 1950’s came the emergence of those writing about anti-modernism and controversial in their approach, but the romantic influence had gone.

Poetry of the 1960’s was heavily influenced by the music era, for it was common place, that they were known to dive into the drug world for inspiration, to feed themselves, thus creating a new form of poetry.

Poetry of the 20th century changed so much with each generation; it evolved through influences and events of the time.  Much music written at the time was similar to early forms of poetry when words were put to music by minstrels.  The following words from the song “The Streets of London by Ralph McTell” could just as easily be read as a poem.

An Extract of Song:

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
With his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.

How would one describe poetry?  It is an artistic form, by which one uses it to express emotion, thoughts and ideas in a compressed form.  Whether it be a flourish of descriptive words or clean-cut.

Interactive layering consists of imagery, word associations and musical adaptations, to create poetry.

Poetry is a creation by the writer from the need to escape the logical form, as well as express feelings in a tight compressed manner.

Narrative and dramatic styles of poetry are used to tell stories, and feature verse composition, which are known to resemble novels and plays.

They set themselves apart from other works weaving together intricate elements of tension, complex emotion and thought, creating a refreshing style of poetry.

English and European poetry often uses rhyme; a system used for hundreds of years, such as ballads, sonnets etc.  However, much modern poetry has strayed from rhyme.  Another style is free verse poetry (Unrhymed and following no strict pattern) offering pleasing and emphasising element to a poem.

Poetry can go on to produce works in an organised fashion.  A single line can make sense.  “To be, or not to be: that is the question.” (From Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

In more recent times, electronic media has enhanced poems, and can be accessed in Weblogs as a way of expressing one’s thoughts.

There are many other forms of poetry that I have not mentioned, the list has grown much over the centuries but here are a few seen often but deserve a mention:

Elegy:         A serious reflective poem, especially one lamenting a death.

Haiku:         Epigrammatic Japanese verse form employing seventeen syllables.

Stanza:       A group of lines forming a regular metrical division within a poem.

Tercet:       A group of three lines, often connected by rhyme.

Sonnet:      Consists of fourteen lines with first and third, second and fourth lines of  each verse rhyming.

Just William: Richmal Crompton

just-williamAt the mention of the loveable school character ‘Just William’, you think of Richmal Crompton, the schoolteacher who created this cheeky character.

On the 15th November 1890, Richmal Crompton Lamburn was born in Bury, Lancashire to the Reverend Edward Lamburn and his wife Clara.

Richmal was educated at a boarding school for daughters of the clergy at St.Elphins in Warrington, originally a former convent.  Many, have reported to have seen a Nun, walking the dark corridors at night.  In 1904, she attended Darley Dale School, overlooking the moors, then later attended the Royal Holloway College in Surrey to take her degree.  In 1914, she returned to St.Elphin’s School as the classics mistress, later moving to Bromley High School.

For many years Richmal enjoyed the art of writing, but her first publication as a serious writer appeared in a 1918 issue of ‘Girl’s Own Paper’, featuring the exploits of Thomas a young boy who reacted against authority.  Then in 1919 ‘Just William’ was born, for the ‘Home Magazine’, and in 1922 a collection of twelve stories were released in book form, aimed at the juvenile market.  So began the renowned series of ‘Just William’ books.

In 1923, she was struck down with polio, loosing the use of her right leg, remaining lame for the rest of her life.  This impediment proved a strain in her teaching profession, leading to her early retirement, to concentrate on her writings.

Richmal is remembered for her 38 ‘Just William’ books, bringing out the cheekiness of William, and enlightening young and old with her writings.  Her career came to an abrupt end, when she suffered from a heart attack and died in January 1969, at her home in Chislehurst, Kent.  She left behind thousands of ‘Just William’ fans, the world over.  They will always remember the saga of that scruffy boy, who became a cult figure in literature.

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My Life: Rudyard Kipling

rudyard-kiplingRudyard Kipling was born to English parents living in India towards the end of 1865.  He spent the first six years of his life in Bombay, where his love of this part of the world can be seen in some of his works, for example ‘Kim’.

Rudyard was sent to England, to undertake his education, initially attending Hope lodge in Southsea, which he disliked intently, but later attending the United Services College in Westward Ho in Devon.  A college he grew to love, and remained there until his return to India in 1882.  Upon his return, he started work at the civil and military Gazette in Lahore, as a member of the editorial staff, and later became a reporter for The Pioneer at Allahabad.

In 1889, he left India, to travel the world, and during his time visited London where he met Carrie an American girl, fell in love, and they were married in 1892.  They moved to America and settled in the state of Vermont, her home state, where he wrote Jungle Book and Captain Courageous.  In December of 1892, his daughter Josephine was born, followed by Elsie in 1895.  In early 1897 the family left America to settle in England at Rottingdean in Sussex, and during the summer of that year, their son John was born.

Their happiness wasn’t too last, for they took the children to visit their grandmother in America, and all three children caught whooping cough, and Rudyard and Carrie suffered respiratory problems.  Doctors treating Rudyard held out little hope of his recovery, and prayers were offered up in American Churches across the land for him and his family’s recovery.  The world press chronicled his progress as front-page news, of the man considered to be one of the world’s most popular authors at that time.  Following a long drawn out illness, he was to recover, but Josephine their first-born and his favourite little child died, and this tragic loss of life was always with him, one memory he would carry with him always.  Following, such a disastrous trip to America, he was never destined to travel there again, during his lifetime.

In 1902 the Kipling’s moved from Rottingdean, as the house carried too many memories of Josephine, to ‘Batemans’, a Jacobean house, of stone construction, close to the river Dudwell, dating back to 1634.  The property included a 13th century watermill, and 33 acres of land with it.  His love of the Sussex landscape took root during his time at Rottingdean, and blossomed when he moved to ‘Batemans’, in Burwash.  The area was included in many of his books.  Located behind the house and close to the river, stand the remains of an old forge, as featured in ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’.  Kipling’s love for the area has been summed up in a poem called ‘The Land’ written in 1916, which deals with English rustic life through the centuries.

The Sussex coast was notorious in years gone by for smugglers, with Pevensey Bay being used as a landing point by them.  The road from Pevensey to London, passed through the village of Burwash, and according to traditions and legends, many houses were associated with smugglers.

At the time Kipling lived in Sussex, the countryside was much isolated and self-supporting, than it is today, as the motor car at that time was new to the roads.  The invention of motorised transport, was much too kipling’s liking, and he used to refer to the dangers and delights of the early days of motoring in his stories.

He found an interest towards mechanical things, and he used water from the river to turn the mill wheel, thus generating electricity for the house, a rare thing in rural Sussex, causing much interest among the locals.

Tragedy befell the Kipling’s once again, when his son John, whilst serving as a Lieutenant with the Irish Guards, was killed in action at the ‘Battle of Loos’, during the First World War, at the age of 18.  A bronze tablet dedicated to his memory can be found in Burwash Church with a latin inscription (He died before his time).  His name can also be found on the Burwash War Memorial.  Kipling served on the War Graves Commission, after the war, inspecting cemeteries in Northern France.  Whilst there he visited the battlefield of Loos, where his son met his end, dying for his country, and in 1923 published the history of The Irish Guards in the Great War.

Rudyard Kipling, author of the best children stories, suffered much sadness in his life, loosing two of his three children, in their early years, and his remaining child, Elsie’s marriage in 1924 was childless, and was denied the joy of being a grandfather.  During a visit to London in 1936, he was taken ill, and rushed to Middlesex Hospital where he died four days later, aged 70.  His wife Carrie continued to live at the family home of ‘Bateman’s, until her death three years later.  Following her death, she bequeathed the house and land, along with much of the furniture and effects to the National Trust.  Her only individual request was that Rudyard’s study should remain as it was, where he created his best loved stories.

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My Life: Agatha Christie

agatha_christie_by_mishanerAgatha Mary Clarissa Miller, was born on the 15th September 1890, at Torquay, in Devon, to Frederick and Clarissa Miller.  Being one of three children, she had an older sister Madge, and a brother Monty.  Sadly in 1901, her childhood came to an abrupt end, when her father died, leaving her mother to raise them.

Writing was a family trait, as her sister Madge sold several short stories in her teenage years.

Agatha had received much encouragement in her early years from Rudyard Kipling, leading to her first publication; a poem printed in a local newspaper, at the age of 11, which was to be the start of her writing career.

In 1912, she became engaged to an army officer, but this was not to last, for while he was away in Hong Kong, she met Lieutenant Archibald Christie, formerly of the Royal Artillery and later of the Royal Flying Corps.  At the out break of the First World War, Agatha wanted to do her part, joined the Voluntary Aid detachment, and married Archibald whilst he was on leave at Christmas.

The inspiration of the Belgium refugees she came into contact with, whilst working at the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay, led to the character of ‘Hercules Poirot’, the famous Belgian detective, which was to feature in many of her books.

In 1919, Agatha gave birth to a baby daughter, Rosalind, and in 1920, whilst the Christie’s lived in London, her first book was published.  This was quickly followed by another in 1922, ‘The Secret Adversary’.  From then on she published one almost every year there afterwards, and stated that she ate apples in the Bath, whilst dreaming up plots.

Sadly, by the time she published her sixth novel in 1926, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’, her marriage was all but over, and she had become an established author.

The events following her disappearance made her a household name world-wide, guaranteeing the success of her books for years to come.  Late one December evening in 1926, Agatha left her home in Sunningdale, Berkshire.  Shortly there afterwards, her car was found abandoned, leading to a nation-wide search for her, even local ponds and lakes were dragged in search of her body.  At one point, even her husband was suspected of murdering his wife, following a letter received by the Chief of Police, hinting her life was in danger.  She was later found, staying in a Yorkshire Hotel, booked in under the name of ‘Theresa Neele’, the same name as her husband’s mistress.

According to Archibald Christie, Agatha was suffering from amnesia, but she had advertised to the world, that her husband was having an affair, leading to their divorce in 1928.

The distinguished archaeologist Max Mallowan, married Agatha in 1930, and she was to spend her remaining years travelling to and from the middle east with him, cataloguing his finds, from excavation sites in Syria and Iraq and gathering material for her books.  Agatha turned to playwriting, whilst still turning out a few novels each year.  Her famous mystery play ‘Mousetrap’, was originally entitled ‘Three Blind Mice’, was first performed on radio.  Its West End debut was on the 28th November 1952, it must have been a proud day for her.  As a ninth birthday present to her grandson; Mathew, she signed the rights of the ‘Mousetrap’ over to him.

Agatha became Lady Mallowan in 1968 when her husband was knighted, and Dame Agatha Christie in 1971.

By the time of her death in 1976, she had published 78 crime novels, 19 plays, an assortment of short stories and poems, plus six novels under her pen name ‘Mary Westmacott’, and her biography which was published in 1977, the year following her death.

Agatha remained a shy person, and disliked personal publicity.  She believed she was here to entertain her readers, and she certainly did that!

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New Words by Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare

The English Language as we have come to know it, has changed over the centuries, and we owe a debt of gratitude to one man who was responsible in his lifetime, for many of these words; William Shakespeare.  He created some 1700 words, some new other’s changed to create a new word, by changing Nouns into Verbs and Verbs into Adjectives, adding prefixes and suffixes.

Most common words created by him and used in his plays:

Auspicious:
Showing signs of future success, favourable.

Baseless:
Not based on fact, no foundation.

Barefaced:
Obvious, shameless, without concealment or disguise.

Castigate:
To find fault, reprimand, punish.

Clangor:
Loud continuous clanging sound.

Dexterously:
Skilled in use of hands, mental quickness.

Dwindle:
Reduce in size, reduce in strength, reduce in savings.

Multitudinous:
Large number of people or things.

Sanctimonious:
Pretending to be religious and virtuous.

Watchdog:
A dog kept to guard property, a person or group that acts as a guard, watching for illegal activity.

 

Phrases for use in plays which are still used to this day:

  • It’s Greek to me: (Julius Ceasar) You are informing the person you do not understand something.
  • Fair Play: (The Tempest) Usually stated in response to sporting

games or in competitions.

  • In a pickle: (The Tempest) You are in trouble or in a situation, you can not easily remove yourself from.
  • All that glitters isn’t gold: (Merchant of Venice) We discover that something which looks good, turns out not to be as good as it looks.
  • Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve: (Othello) To be open and

honest about your feelings.

  • Break the ice: (The Taming of the Shrew)  When you first meet somebody you ask simple questions to break the bond of silence between two strangers.
  • The lady doth protest too much: (Hamlet)  If one protests about something incessantly, they feel the opposite to what they say.
  • Clothes make the man: (Hamlet)  What one wears, reveals

something about the person’s inner self.

  • A laughing stock: (The Merry Wives of Windsor)  You are

considered a joke by many people, often by your actions.

  • Too much of a good thing: (As You Like It)  What you like, may not be good for you: love, food, money, drink.

 

Translations of some words from past to present:

Thee and Thou are replaced with You

Thy and Thine are replaced with Your

English writing of the past, often used older style words, which gave off a style of reverence.

Thou art is replaced by You are

Ay is replaced by Yes

Give me leave to is replaced by Allow me to

Alas is replaced with Unfortunately

Endth is replaced by End

Speaketh is replaced by Speak

Sayeth is replaced by Say

Just by removal of eth or th, changes to words used in out timeline.

At the time William Shakespeare wrote his works, the word don’t would not have been part of the English Language as it is today.

Be not afeard is replaced by Don’t be afraid

Hurt me not is replaced by Don’t hurt me

What looked he like is replaced by What did he look like

Stayed he long is replaced by Did he stay long

Today we look at some of the words spoken in the past, and we would question the grammatical form … but move on a few centuries and grammar forms have changed.

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Shakespeare versus Marlowe

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Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, considered by many learned scholars some 150 years later, could have been the writer of some of William Shakespeare plays.

There are some similarities in their early years; Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, and his father was a shoemaker.  William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 as well, and his father worked with leather among other things.

Marlowe attended the Kings School in Canterbury, Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, and received a Batchelor of Arts degree in 1584.  Whilst Shakespeare attended King’s New School in Stratford-upon-Avon, studying grammar and Latin classical works, and in 1582 married Anne Hathoway.

It is believed, whilst Marlowe attended the University of Cambridge, that he was recruited as a government spy, as suggested by Charles Nicholl.  Records indicate that he had long absences from the university, and had money to spend when he was there.

In 1587, the Privy Council ordered the University of Cambridge to award Marlowe a Master of Arts degree.

Theories abound about Marlowe.  One was that in 1589 he became tutor to Arabella Stuart, the niece of Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to James VI of Scotland, later James I of England.

In 1592, he was arrested in Flushing in the Netherlands for alleged counterfeiting, but no trial took place, and no prison sentence followed.

On the 30th May 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed, and buried in an unmarked grave at St.Nicholas Church, Deptford.

Many theories exist to the manner of his death.  It has been put forward that his death may have been faked to save the government, of a trial for subversive atheism, against one of their own spies.  Could it be, the reason he professed atheism, had more to do with his work as a government spy.

Christopher Marlowe’s first play was “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” performed by Children of the Chapel, a company of boy actors between 1587-1593, and published in 1594, listing authors as Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe.

In 1587, his play “Tamburlaine the Great” was performed in London, and in 1588 part two was released.  It told the story of the rise from shepherd tp war-lord.  Then in 1590, both parts were published.

“The Jew of Malta,” written between 1589-1590 and first performed in 1592, and published in 1594.  The storyline is of a Maltese Jew’s barbarous revenge against the city authorities.

“Edward the Second,” was published in 1594, a year after Marlowe’s supposed death.  The story is about the deposition of King Edward II by his barons and the Queen.

“The Massacre at Paris,” was about the events which took place at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, which involved English Protestants and Catholics.  It features an English Agent, and one believes this has to be Marlowe himself, with his connections to the English secret service.

One would have to say, this was a most dangerous play to have written, for it brought into play, agitators in London who seized on its theme to advocate the murders of refugees from the low countries, and it warns Elizabeth I of this possibility in the final scene.

Marlowe was admired by his critics, as an influential artist of the timer who sadly died before his time.

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare paid tribute to Christopher Marlowe in his play, “As You Like It.”  The quote read: “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward a child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.”

Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his works, as can be seen in Anthony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III and Macbeth.  There are poignant speeches in Hamlet, which echo the style of Marlowe.

Both men lived and worked in the same timeline, yet their lives differed so much.  We could not in all honesty consider anything other than we were privileged that these two authors wrote many plays during their lifetimes.

Shakespeare continues to be considered one of the greatest writers the world over.  Portraying characters; from our history.  Showing situations which we would experience at one time or another during our lives.  He does this with great understanding of humanity, tolerance and wisdom.

His plays were designed to be performed in such a way, that we understand what it is to be human, and cope with the problems of life.

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Shakespeare’s Plays and Sonnets

shakespeare-plays

William Shakespeare wrote thirty eight plays giving the world an insight into history as seen through the eyes of one man.  His work covered three main genres: History – Tragedies – Comedies.  For he was not afraid to write of romances, love and lust through his characters.  These works of this one man would last for centuries, becoming a leading playwright, always remembered for his works.

So join with me as we step back in time, breaking into the world of his plays.

All That Ends Well (1602-1603)

This comedy is centred round the old age subject of love, and how obstacles can be overcome, even though there is no final resolution to the problem.  It leaves the audience, believing that humanity is to blame for their inadequacy.

It tells us of Helena, the orphaned daughter of a much respected and experienced physician, raised within the household of the Countess of Rossillions, and is said to love Bertram son of the Countess.

Bertram heads off to see the King of France, who is gravely ill, with Helena in hot pursuit, looking to heal the King, and move herself up the pecking ladder so to speak.

The King is cured, and grants Helena one wish, and she choose’s Bertram as her husband, who strongly objects to any such alliance.

The story is one of seduction, and deceit by Helena until Bertram is forced into accepting her as his wife.  Bertram had no choice in this, for Helena had him in her clutches, and no intentions of letting her go.

Productions of the play did not take place until the 1740’s when Peg Woffington played the part of Helena.  In the early part of the 19th century, it was performed but censored in part.  Then mid way through the 20th century it became popular…

Robert Atkins produced it in 1949, and then in 1953 Tyrone Guthrie produced it in Stratford-upon-Avon.  There was one production that stood out, that would be Trevor Nunn’s (1981-1983) starring Peggy Ashcroft as the countess.  It played first at Stratford-upon-Avon, then on to London, and finally Broadway.

Hamlet (1600-1601)

Since its production on the stage, with Richard Burbage a leading actor at that time, playing the part of Hamlet in this tragedy based play.  It has been recognised the world over, as one of Shakespeare’s most prominent works.

The ghost of Hamlet, former King of Denmark, appears to Horatio, long time friend of Prince Hamlet, knowing his words would reach the ears of his son.

Prince Hamlet speaks out harshly against Claudius and Gertrude’s (Hamlet’s former wife) marriage.  His father’s ghost, tells how Claudius had poisoned him, seeking the hand of Gertrude, as he took his position as the new King of Denmark.  Prince Hamlet promises to avenge his father’s death, for such a dastardly act.

Laertes, son of Polonius warns his sister, Ophelia against any courtship with Prince Hamlet.  Yet Prince Hamlet rejects her, feigning madness to ward her off.

The death of his father affects Prince Hamlet, so much, that nothing would stand in his way, to avenge his murder.  So much so, that friends Rossencrantz and Guildenstern help him perform a play, an enactment of his father’s death with Claudius watching.

Later in the play, Claudius believing he is alone and in prayer, admits his guilt, but is overheard by Prince Hamlet, who opts not to take his revenge at that point, and kill him…

Claudius, knowing that Prince Hamlet had killed Polonius, conspired with Laertes to avenge the death of his father, and the madness that had destroyed his sister; Ophelia, rejected by him and treated as a whore.

Claudius and Hamlet meet where Ophelia is buried using poison tipped swords, and poisoned wine.  Osric presents the challenge between Prince Hamlet and Laertes.

Gertrude drinks from the poisoned wine in error, and Hamlet and Laertes are both wounded, Claudius is stabbed by Laertes, and forced to drink the wine, then both men collapse and die, and Prince Hamlet also dies from his wound.

Prince Hamlet receives a state funeral, and knew he had avenged his father’s life…

The part of Hamlet had been portrayed by many fine actors in the 19th and 20th centuries:

19th Century – Ira Aldridge, William Charles Macready, Edwin Booth and Henry Irving.

20th Century – John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and John Barrymore.

I am sure there are many more names we could add, but these are those who are most known for acting the part.

Richard III (1592-1593)

The historical play of Richard III has been very controversial, ever so much in recent time since the discovery of his bodily remains.

In this play Edward IV, having seized the English throne, defeats the Lancastrians, ensuring his position as King Edward IV of England.

Brotherly love doesn’t always run smoothly, as Edward has two brothers; George the Duke of Clarence and Richard the Duke of Gloucester, who sought after the throne, whatever the cost.

We see Richard as a villain, with an evil nature, plotting the death of brother George, upon the charge of treason, being sent to the tower, and executed.

Edward now an ailing King, collapses at the news that his brother George, Duke of Clarence was dead.  For it was he who sent him to the tower, but at the last minute had issued a pardon, sparing his life.  However, Richard Duke of Gloucester delayed issuing the pardon, waiting until he had heard that the execution had taken place.

King Edward IV names Richard Duke of Gloucester as protector after his death, and entrusts the two princes, Edward and Richard into his care.

So it was Richard the Duke of York joined his brother Prince Edward, successor to the English throne at the Tower of London.

Prince Edward V and Richard the Duke of York, having been the children of the Duke of Clarence, who had been executed for treason, were deemed illegitimate based on a rumour, which had no substance, that they be the result of the late King’s illicit affair.

The young princes disappeared never to be heard from again, it is believed they were executed on the order’s of Richard III himself, and executed by Tyrell, who was in the employ of Richard.

King Richard III’s reign was overshadowed by the constant threat of a Tudor invasion of these lands.  So it was King Richard III died on the battle field at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.

The part of Richard III was played by Richard Burbage in 1590, a well known actor at that time, and the leading actor in “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and later renamed as “The King’s Men” in honour of their patron King James I.

In 1700 Colley Cibber, re-wrote parts of the play, thus reducing it in size from the original, and this revised version was performed in New York in 1751, and ran for many years.

With the 19th century, much of the original writings were replaced.

Richard III, a play with much history content, reached the cinema screen, when four silent films were produced over a number of years, but the most remembered was Max Reinhardt’s version, released in 1919.

In 1956 Lawrence Olivier played the part of Richard III in the movie, which had been altered considerably for the screen, but designed to attract cinema goers.  Since those days it has been performed as a play, on television and national theatres, along with more modern television versions.

There have been many plays written by William Shakespeare, and I have given an account of one from each category.

“The Two Noble Kinsmen play,” written in 1613, lists William Shakespeare and John Fletcher as co-authors in this work.  The majority of this play was the work of Fletcher, whilst Shakespeare wrote acts one and five.

John Fletcher went on to succeed Shakespeare as the principal writer of plays for “The King’s Men.”

William Shakespeare was known to write a total of 154 sonnets, of which 126 were dedicated to a fair youth, and the remaining 28 dedicated to that of a dark lady.

So what is a sonnet?  A poem consisting of fourteen lines of regular rhythm and rhyme, based on a single theme.  Sonnets are normally divided up, and the first eight lines would represent the theme, and the remaining six lines would form the resolution or conclusion.

A William Shakespeare sonnet would rhyme like this:

Line 01 rhymes with line 03            Line 08 rhymes with line 06

Line 02 rhymes with line 04            Line 09 rhymes with line 11

Line 03 rhymes with line 01            Line 10 rhymes with line 12

Line 04 rhymes with line 02            Line 11 rhymes with line 09

Line 05 rhymes with line 07            Line 12 rhymes with line 10

Line 06 rhymes with line 08            Line 13 rhymes with line 14

Line 07 rhymes with line 05            Line 14 rhymes with line 13

If one uses the above we can see how it works out below:

Sonnet 18 written by William Shakespeare.

Line 01       Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Line 02       Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Line 03       Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

Line 04       And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Line 05       Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

Line 06       And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

Line 07       And every fair from fair sometime declines,

Line 08       By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

Line 09       But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Line 10       Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Line 11       Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

Line 12       When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

Line 13       So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

Line 14       So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

If we observe how a sonnet is written, we can get a good idea how it has been created.  So a few examples are shown below how sonnet 18 works.

The last word of line one (day) rhyme’s with the last word of line three (May).

The last word of line five (shines) rhyme’s with the last word of line seven (declines).

The last word of line ten (ow’st) rhymes with the last word of line twelve (grow’st).

This has become over time one of William Shakespeare’s most remembered and most loved sonnet.  The opening line put’s forward a question which the rest of the sonnet answers.

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Shakespeare’s Writing Styles

0001William Shakespeare has become known, the world over for his poetry and the passion he has portrayed within his plays.  Yet the earliest plays were written in a style much associated with the times of the day.

He was known to use metaphors (a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally apply to in order to imply a resemblance) and rhetorical phrases (the art of using speech or writing to influence using groups of words).  However, this did not always work well with the plot of the story or the characters within the story.

So he created his innovative style, one which he was associated with, which was based loosely on the style of the day.  He produced a form, where the words flowed off the tongue with ease, whilst keeping the plot intact.

In a sense, we would have to say, he re-wrote parts of the English language, by increasing its vocabulary, to work with his plays.

William Shakespeare’s life and works as we see it, has four distinctive periods, covering plays in three genres: Histories – Tragedies – Comedies, relating to him as a man.

Period One … Up to 1595.

During this period we would see the youthful man and young love move into imagination, and plays associated and written within this period included; The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III.

Period Two … 1595-1601.

During this period, he would show more dramatic art within his works, with more appreciation for the character interlinked with sadness, which included the works of; The Merchant of Venice, Henry IV, Henry V and As You Like it.

Period Three … 1601-1608.

This period showed us little of the man, the writer in the true sense, for his life was changing, for his father died in 1601.  The Earl of Essex was executed by Queen Elizabeth I on a charge of treason, even Shakespeare feared for his life.

Period Four … 1608-1613.

After the sadness of the last period William Shakespeare showed new vitality in his work, new strength in the works of Othello and Macbeth.  In 1608 his mother died, and he remembered her kindness and love towards him.

The greatest works he wrote during this period would have to be; The Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.

William Shakespeare will always be remembered for his plays, yet he was responsible for the writing of numerous poems and 154 sonnets.

In 1593 and 1594, all theatres remained closed, because of the plague, and it was during this time he wrote two narrative poems for the Earl of Southampton; Henry Wriothesley.  “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece,” both became popular and were reprinted many times during his lifetime.

It is believed the majority of his sonnets were written during his lifetime, and mainly for private readership, dedicated to one’s he loved.  They fall into two groups, one aimed at lust, marriage and that of a dark lady, and the other is love for a young man.

Could it be that the dark lady, could be one, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, whom he had intended to marry, but once Anne Hathaway announced she was pregnant, he was forced into marriage.

As for the young man, could it be “William Hughes” as put forward in writings of Oscar Wilde; “The Portrait of Mr.W.H.” published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in July 1889.  It is a short story referring to a conversation, about William Shakespeare’s love for a young actor, and his sonnets.

Tudor England: William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare has been credited as England’s greatest playwright and poet of all times, having written thirty-eight plays, one-hundred and fifty-four sonnets and countless other poems and verses.  His works have been performed worldwide, and his poetry read by countless millions.

His exact date of birth is unknown, but research has found he has been credited with the same date as St.George’s Day

William Shakespeare was born on the 23rd April 1564 to parents John Shakespeare an Alderman and Mary Arden in Stratford – upon-Avon, and baptised on the 26th April at Holy Trinity Church.

We know little of young Shakespeare’s schooling, other than we believe he attended King’s New School in Stratford, for the school was only a few hundred yards from the family home.  Based upon the teachings during the Elizabethan era, he would have received a grammatical education based upon Latin classical works.

When Shakespeare was 18, he married Anne Hathaway aged 26, and pregnant at the time, on the 27th November 1582 in Worcester.  She gave birth to a daughter; Susanna on the 26May 1583.

According to the will of Richard Hathoway, he left his daughter Anne the sum of £6-13s-4d to be paid out on the day of her marriage.

When Anne Hathoway married William Shakespeare on the 27th November 1582 in Worcester, she was already pregnant with their first child; Susanna, born on the 26th May 1583.

If one studies the writings and events related to the life of William Shakespeare, it becomes obvious that he was involved with two women at the same time.  Anne Hathoway of Shottery and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton whom he had intended to marry.  Once the news got out, he was forced into marriage with Anne Hathoway, as she was carrying his child; it was nothing short of a shotgun wedding.

Two years later, Anne and William had twins; Hamnet and Judith in 1585.  Bubonic plague was a common disease at that time, and they lost Hamnet to it, aged just eleven years old in 1596, and he was buried in Stratford.

Their first born daughter, Susanna went on to marry John Hall the local doctor in 1607, and gave birth to a daughter; Elizabeth in 1608.

His other daughter; Judith, would bring shame on the family name.  In February 1616 Judith Shakespeare aged 31, married Thomas Quiney aged 27, a tavern owner.

A disgusted William heard that his new son-in-law Thomas had married his daughter, having made another pregnant, and not marrying the one carrying his child as would have been expected of him.  Added to the fact, he had not applied for a special marriage licence, for celebrations were forbidden during Lent by the church.  This resulted in their excommunication on the 12th March 1616.

In the latter part of the 1580’s, Shakespeare arrived in London, hoping to make a name for himself.  By 1592 he had several plays being performed on stage, including “As You Like it.”

Out of utter disgust, Robert Greene the university – educated writer attacked his words in print.  “There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is well able to bombarst out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake – scene in a country.”

Scholars agree it was Greene’s way of saying William Shakespeare was reaching above his rank, and matching those trained in the art of writing.

lord-chamberlains-men-plaqueBy the early part of the 1590’s William Shakespeare had become a partner in an acting company who performed in London, known as the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”  In 1603 they changed their name to that of the “King’s Men” following the crowning of King James I.

One thing we have to note, is that during the 16th century, the theatre was not frequented very much by those of mobility or those of high ranking in society.  They showed their appreciation in other ways, by being patrons to the performing arts.

For William Shakespeare to make his mark he needed to attract somebody of importance to his works.  He was fortunate, that the Earl of Southampton; Henry Wriothesley liked what he read and saw, written and produced by this virtual newcomer.

Shakespeare dedicated his first two published poems to the Earl:

“Venus and Adonis” was published in 1593.

“The Rape of Lucrece” was published in 1594.

When their patron died on the 23rd July 1596 his son George Carey the 2nd Baron Hunsdon took over the position as their patron, and under his direction they were no longer known as “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” but “Lord Hunsdon’s Men.”  When George Carey was appointed to Lord Chamberlain on the 17th March 1597, they reverted their stage name to that of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”

With the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, having been on the throne for 45 years, and served her people well.  King James IV of Scotland became the new King James I of England when he ascended to the English throne in 1603.  He became the new patron to the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” who duly changed their name to the “Kings Men,” in honour of their new patron, and King.

Shakespeare wrote most of his plays to be performed by the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they played to their audience at “The Theatre” in Shoreditch, then in 1597 they moved to the “Curtain Theatre,” following a dispute with their landlord.

His need for larger premises saw the ambitious construction of the “Globe Theatre” in Southwark, built in 1599.

For it was on the 29th December 1598 that “The Theatre” in Shoreditch was dismantled, and the main beams moved to south of the River Thames: “The Globe Theatre,” in Southwark.

The original Globe Theatre was a three-storey open-air amphitheatre, some 100 feet in diameter, and easily capable of housing 3,000 spectators.

fire-at-globe-theatre

Globe Theatre Fire

Located at the base of the stage, we find an area referred to as the pit, which was for standing room only.  It was common practice in this design, to locate larger columns on either side of the stage as support for a roof over the rear area of stage.  The ceiling area would be painted with what appeared to be sky and clouds, representing the heavens.  A trap door would be located in the heavens, allowing performers to descend using a harness.

The “Globe Theatre” was destroyed by fire on 29th June 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII.  It is said a theatrical cannon misfired setting the wooden beams and thatched roof into a blazing inferno.  She was rebuilt by June 1614.

The shock to William Shakespeare seeing The Globe struck down by fire in 1613, may have been the reason that he retired from writing plays and returned to the family home in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

On the 25th March 1616, having signed his will, knew in his heart he had achieved so much in his lifetime.

William Shakespeare died on the 23rd April 1616, leaving his devoted wife Anne, his eldest daughter Susanna having married a physician John Hall in 1607.  His other daughter Judith married tavern owner Thomas Quiney and brought shame on the family, when they were excommunicated from the church on the 12th March 1616.

His body was buried within the Chancel of Holy Trinity Church on 25th April 1616.

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