Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Poetry: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare
Sonnet CXXI

'Tis better to be vile than vile esteem'd,
When not to be receives reproach of being;
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deem'd
Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing:
For why should others' false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my offenses reckon up their own;
I may be straight though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts, my deeds must not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad and in their badness reign.


At 11:57 AM, Anonymous tyromaven said...

You know, Shakespeare is so obvious that we often forget about him. I think that brief revival he got in popular film with R + J, Shakespeare in Love, and so on, just hid him further in plain sight.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger meridity said...

I think that you'll appreciate this:

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Ammegg said...

Yay about the speck!

Agreed about Shakespeare. I think the weight of scholarship—especially the worshipful and egomaniacal kind pioneered by Harold Bloom—also gets in the way. As if Shakespeare's incredible craft negates the crazy beautiful viscera, or vice versa. (Form-content, *again*.) He had an incredible amount to say and an incredible ability to put it into artistic action.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Lonin said...

i just rediscovered this post, Gemma... or maybe i never even read it before, i don't know. this sonnet is certainly unfamiliar to me. i'm sort of taken by surprise, actually, at how much of a *philosophical argument* it really is. so... i totally agree about the incredible amount to say.

i'm wondering, though: is the "artistic action" taken here any more than putting his ideas into the form of a sonnet, and calling the result a poem? because, i'm not sure at all that i'd call the *way* it's put into poetic form to be particularly artistic (however impressive it definitely is that he did it in the first place).

and, actually, there are some parts of the philosophical argument that i'm not sure about. like, what's "this general evil" in line 13 referring to? i'd like it to be a reference to, in fact, the entirety of lines 9-12, which i guess if Shakespeare were a more modern poet would then be in quotes. because that makes this poem end up being about Shakespeare defending his own sensitivity to other people's words, which would be *awesome*. but... i've always thought of Shakespeare-the-sonneteer as more of a badass than that. so, could this possibly be really what he meant? (maybe "'Tis better to be vile" alone, which i guess is also taken up again by the last line, is badass enough.)

oh... and happy birthday, one more time!



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