Author Topic: Bard Portrait  (Read 1685 times)

Toedancer

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Bard Portrait
« on: March 09, 2009, 01:53:32 PM »
A 300 year-old portrait of Shakespeare, believed to be the only authentic image of him painted while he was alive was unveiled on Monday. Such a handsome fellow and look at that entirely priceless gaze from Wells looking at the portrait, adoring with good humour.
"Democracy is not the law of the majority, it's the protection of the minority." -Albert Camus 1913-1960

skdadl

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2009, 03:13:08 PM »
Heh. 9/11 conspiracy theories have nothing on stories about Shakespeare's biography, just nothing. They don't come anywhere close.  :mrgreen:

Someone in comments at the Grope mentions the Sanders portrait, the one discovered in Canada in 2001, which still has a serious claim -- it is at least of the period. The one in the AP story may well be genuine too -- we've seen copies of it before, so someone obviously thought it was Willyum at the time.

Shame that Reuters can't count (see the photo caption): If that painting was done ca 1610 and this is 2009, then it is almost 400 years old, not 300, as the caption says.

Toedancer

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2009, 03:38:47 PM »
Och good catch skdadl.

Indeed 9/11 is absolutely boring in comparison. The greatest manhunt in literary history.  :D But I've never really understood why any of the contenders would want to be anonymous or use another name in the first place. It's not like Queen E was going to lop off the head of a playwright, there was simply no reason to.
"Democracy is not the law of the majority, it's the protection of the minority." -Albert Camus 1913-1960

Zastrozzi

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2009, 05:41:44 PM »
Well, I dunno. Maybe Queen Elizabeth wasn't quite the capricious decapitator she's depicted to be in Blackadder and other popular culture, but I'm guessing the stereotype came from somewhere - she and her dad arguably originated the sort of police state that was taken to even greater extremes by Stalin. And my understanding is that artists weren't immune from that, particularly if they were also actively involved in court politics.

Still, I don't find any of the alternative authorship theories persuasive, even after having read a bit about them and seen an entertaining if slight play (The Shakespeare Show) that promotes Edward Devere as the author. A book I'm looking forward to reading after I finish Huck Finn is A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. It sounds like it goes over some of the same ground as Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World from a few years ago, with more of a focus on a pivotal year in Shakespeare's career.

skdadl

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2009, 06:08:55 PM »
Yes, Tudor politics (like Stuart politics following them) were pretty dangerous all the way through, and Elizabeth was perfectly capable of having people murdered or tortured and/or beheaded, including close relatives and former allies and lovers, mainly, I guess, because she was in fairly dangerous circs herself much of the time. She turned out to be the smartest crook of them all -- in the sense that she managed to finish off anyone else who would have finished her off first -- although I will grant that there were some good things she was good at too.

In several of his plays, Shakespeare is obviously flattering the Tudors -- it's blatant in Henry VIII, eg (which Willyum only wrote in collaboration), but even the better history plays and a great tragedy like Macbeth have a political tilt that was supposed to please Elizabeth. (In political/historical terms, both Richard III and Macbeth are total slanders, but they are great plays and exceptional poetry -- Macbeth is music.)

One of the commenters at the Grope says something like "if it wasn't him, it was someone exactly like him" -- exactly. I think that that is what everyone who cares about the plays and poetry always feels. In fact quite a lot is known about Willyum's life, more than most people have been led to believe. It's entirely believable to me that a guy with his history, especially as a member of an acting troupe, could do what he did, but then I believe in craftwork and the wonderful things it does for people's minds.

It's also important to remember what was happening to the language at the time. English speakers of the C16/C17 were creating a new language as they spoke and wrote. Tyndale's C16 translation of the Bible (which became the main basis for the King James Version almost a century later) and Shakespeare's works are the two greatest monuments to that historical moment, and as individuals they deserve all praise, but that didn't happen just because of two individual geniuses.

If not them, then two other guys just like them, y'know? That's how literature works. Somebody's got to be the right gril or gyu at the right place at the right time.

"Macbeth doth murder sleep" -- you don't need an exceptional vocabulary to stab that line home -- you just need the ear and soul of a poet.

arborman

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2009, 07:02:46 PM »
I also heard that Homer plagiarized his work from another ancient Greek with the same name.
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Zastrozzi

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2009, 07:56:09 PM »
The thing I've found most interesting about Shakespeare in my recent reading about him is the impression that he saw himself primarily as a businessman, in contrast to most other playwrights of the time who saw themselves more as artists. He had virtually no contact with his family, although he worked hard to support them. He attended to theatre company business during the day and wrote late into the night, which helps account for the sense of perpetual darkness in Hamlet and the note-perfect depiction of sleeplessness in Macbeth.

He sounds like he was a difficult person to get along with in that he was so focused on work - both his writing and the business of making a profit in the theatre - that he had little time for the people around him. Perhaps that shouldn't surprise me. We tend to assume that someone capable of portraying such a wide range of human thoughts and emotions so eloquently and so persuasively would be a brilliant conversationalist, a great person to have a beer with. But in my experience, that's often not the case.

skdadl

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2009, 08:18:15 PM »
Quote from: arborman
I also heard that Homer plagiarized his work from another ancient Greek with the same name.

I heard that too!   :mrgreen:

On the one hand, Greek is mostly Greek to me (except for Antonia), and I never studied Homer hisself in the original.

On the other, one of the wonderful works of the C18, a foundational work for literary theory of the Northrop Frye-ish kind and maybe even a bit of the Derrida-ish kind, is Giambattista Vico's Scienza Nuova (The New Science), which opens with Vico's meditation on Homer, not only on who Homer was but on what "Homer" might mean -- in other words, how are great epics written; what is an epic? Just by thinking in literary and historical terms on that kind of text, Vico came to a conclusion that would be confirmed by archaeologists a generation later and by textual scholars ever since: "Homer" begins in oral tradition, and you may then have several centuries of Homers working on Homer until we end up with "Homer."

I don't think that's always true of epic poetry: some of the Norse sagas, eg, were written while that epic culture was bumping up against a developed literary culture in Britain, so everything was speeded up and we know more historically.

I also think, even from reading Homer in translation, that there had to be one guy -- I don't care which one he was in that succession, but there was this one guy -- who knew how to begin with "Sing, Goddess, of the wrath of Achilles, the son of Peleus," and how to keep reminding us of the rosy-fingered dawn, and all that stuff. I don't think you do that by committee.

lagatta

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2009, 08:34:16 PM »
Yep, that is like the "Matter of Britain" - I've often read "Matière d'Arthur" in French. The original Southern-Celtic material of tales and legends worked into several literary works of note.
" Eure \'Ordnung\' ist auf Sand gebaut. Die Revolution wird sich morgen schon \'rasselnd wieder in die Höhe richten\' und zu eurem Schrecken mit Posaunenklang verkünden: \'Ich war, ich bin, ich werde sein!\' "
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Mandos

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2009, 10:56:50 PM »
"Sing Goddess" or "Sing O Muse" was a standard opening for Greek poetry and storytelling.  I don't know whether it was the convention before or after Homer.  The Aeneid in Latin follows the same convention.

I did study ancient Greek although I'm very rusty on what little I learned.  However, it is indeed lovelier-sounding in the original Greek.

????? (wrath) ????? ??? (Sing Goddess) ????????? (of Peleus) ??????? (of Achilles)
?????????, ? ????? ??????? ????? ?????,
?????? ?? ???????? ????? ???? ????????
?????, ?????? ?? ?????? ????? ????????...

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... 99.01.0133

skdadl

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2009, 05:57:23 AM »
Quote from: Mandos
"Sing Goddess" or "Sing O Muse" was a standard opening for Greek poetry and storytelling.  

I think that's a whoosh, after this sentence of mine:

Quote
"Homer" begins in oral tradition, and you may then have several centuries of Homers working on Homer until we end up with "Homer."

My final sentence is probably a bit fanciful; the point is that with the first literature to emerge from an epic-heroic (oral) culture, we both do and don't know who the bard is, in different senses of knowing.

The situation of figures who write in later cycles of an already literary culture -- like Shakespeare or Virgil -- is quite different. Virgil was using conventions; "Homer" is them. Other cultures produce similar "figures" at that point where an oral culture begins to be recorded -- the Norse bards, eg, although as I say, we actually know who some of them were because they bumped up against an already literary culture.

Catchfire

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Re: Bard Portrait
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2009, 06:22:42 AM »
Quote
Virgil was using conventions; "Homer" is them.
No kidding. Virgil was channelling the Roman self-consciousness that suspected maybe, just maybe, all the wonderment of Rome was stolen from the Greeks. The first word of the Illiad is wrath or vengeance ('Sing, O Goddess, of the wrath of Achilles, the son of Peleus')and the first word of the Odyssey is man ('The man for wisdom's various arts renown'd, / Long exercised in woes, O Muse! resound'). Virgil didn't accidentally use the convention, he deliberately channelled Homer's two epic epics: one for wrath (or warfare) and one for the man? Well, I, Virgil, can do both at once! Hence:
Quote
Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate,
And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
Expell'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore.

It's also no accident, incidentally, that Odysseus shows up in the Aeneid and is condemned as a liar and 'basely born'. Not like a good Roman citizen, y'see.

 

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