ASK ME A SHAKESPEAREAN HERO
- Proteus: Ever fallen for the girlfriend/boyfriend/partner of your best friend?
- Titus: Device an imaginative way of exacting bloody revenge.
- Romeo: How many romantic relationships have you had?
- Lysander: Have you ever slept outdoors without a tent?
- Shylock: Do you belong in an ethnic or religious minority in your country?
- Benedick: Have you ever had a mutually felt love-hate-relationship with someone?
- Brutus: Would you make a good revolutionary?
- Hamlet: Do you have one really close friend you confide more things to than to anyone else?
- Orsino: Have you ever had a crush on someone you have mistaken to be of the opposite sex than what they really were?
- Othello: In a relationship, do you tend to get jealous over little things?
- Lear: What would be your reaction to an overflowingly, comically poetic confession of love?
- Macbeth: Have you ever been talked into something you really didn't want to do?
- Antony: What's your definition of "party hard"?
- Pericles: What's your ideal place/country for an adventure?
- Prospero: Do you believe in magic?
Geoff Dyer’s ten rules for writing fiction
1 Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over—or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: “I’m writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job.” Publisher: “That’s exactly what makes me want to stay in my job.”
2 Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris,dans les cafés … Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.
3 Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.
4 If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto-correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: “Niet” becomes “Nietzsche,” “phoy” becomes “photography” and so on. Genius!
5 Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.
6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.
7 Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.
8 Beware of clichés. Not just the clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought—even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.
9 Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.
10 Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to perseverance. But writing is all about perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.
Catch Geoff Dyer’s new book: ANOTHER GREAT DAY AT SEA: LIFE ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W.BUSH, on sale from Pantheon on May 20, 2014!
okay, brief thesis statement: as you like it is the play where you most directly see shakespeare trying to cope with marlowe’s death.
i’ll explain that in more depth, but first, a little bit about marlowe!
christopher (kit) marlowe was not only another playwright in the period—he began writing before shakespeare, and he basically created elizabethan theater as we know it. he was lower class (the son of a shoemaker), and had by some miracle managed to get scholarships to posh schools, starting with the king’s school in canterbury and continuing up through cambridge, where he studied classics. and by “studied classics” i mean “became the first person to translate ovid’s deeply filthy sex poems into english,” because that’s the sort of person marlowe was. he subsequently quit academia to go into theater, which was, as my prof put it, basically the equivalent of announcing today that you want to put aside your ivy league education for a career in porn.
let me give you a sense of the kind of person kit was
- we know a lot about his life from his arrest record
- he might have been a spy???
- by which i mean he ~mysteriously came into money~ while at cambridge (we know because we have records of the moment when he started buying drinks for everyone. kit.)
- he might have been an atheist???
- whether or not he was, he definitely was fond of telling people (in 16th century england!!!) that jesus was gay
- i’m not kidding
- he’d walk up to people and be like: “so, jesus christ was totally fucking his apostles. thoughts?”
- IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND
- so it is probably not surprising that he died violently at a young age (*quiet sobs*)
- he got stabbed in the eye in a bar fight at age 29
- but wait! even his death is mysterious!!!
- twelve days before his murder, a warrant was issued for his arrest on vague charges of blasphemy. ten days before, he was called up in front of the privy council, but they didn’t meet for some reason. there were rumors that he was going to implicate some pretty high-up nobles in a SECRET RING OF ATHEISTS.
- there’s more, but basically, there was SHADY SHIT going on, and in the coroner’s report, it says refers to the fight as being over “the reckoning,” which could either be SUPER OMINOUS or be about who would pay the check.
which brings me to as you like it! given the coroner’s report, the lines quoted in that post i reblogged read a little differently:
When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a
man’s good wit seconded with the forward child
Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a
great reckoning in a little room. (III.iii.9-12)
(and this comes in a scene where the characters discuss poets/poetry and whether to be “poetical” is to be honest, and how truth can be communicated through fiction aaaaAAAAAAAAAAHHH)
see, shakespeare and marlowe were really, really close. they had a friendly rivalry
and were having all the sex. their plays constantly reference/one-up each other. marlowe wrote the jew of malta, so shakespeare wrote the merchant of venice. marlowe wrote edward ii, so shakespeare wrote richard ii. and so on and so forth. in each other they each found an intellectual equal, someone who could not only keep up, but challenge them—something pretty rare for both of them.
and then, out of the blue, marlowe dies.
a lot happens out of the blue in as you like it. the plot moves forward with these lightning-strike revelations (suddenly, they’re in love! suddenly, a lion! suddenly, the duke goes to live in a monastery!). it’s comic, but also disorienting, and the characters struggle to keep their balance as their world shifts around them.
the through-line of love at first sight, which constitutes several of those sudden, shocking events, isn’t subtle, and is most clearly pointed out by phoebe when she says:
Dead Shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
‘Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?’ (III.v.82-83)
want to know why that bolded line is in quotes? because it is a quote.
specifically, from marlowe’s poem hero and leander.
so, shakespeare bases the main plot conceit of ayli on a quote taken directly from marlowe (ABOUT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I’M GOING TO DIE) and then proceeds in the same play to reference the “great reckoning” and to write, in a speech by jacques: “the scholar’s melancholy, which is / emulation” (IV.i.10-11).
THE SCHOLAR’S MELANCHOLY, WHICH IS EMULATION
THE SCHOLAR’S MELANCHOLY, WHICH IS EMULATION
*lies down on the ground*
*tries not to cry*
*cries a lot*
okay i’m losing the ability to talk about this coherently but basically shakespeare was devastated by marlowe’s death and as you like it is his tribute to kit and it destroys me
history lesson through tumblr marlowe wait so OLLA is EVEN WORSE THAN I THOUGHT I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAVE THESE FEELINGS RACHEL I haven’t even *read* any marlowe yet and now he’s going to the so jesus was totes gay right? writer before I get to read him by which I mean GREAT CONTEXTUALIZATION
To be fair, I wouldn’t characterize Marlowe as randomly informing random people that Jesus was gay, because that was a really stupid thing to do in Elizabethan England, and while I would not exactly compliment Marlowe on his keen sense of self-preservation, I do want to point out that the only concrete evidence of Marlowe’s atheism/Thoughts on Gay Jesus comes from two sources: one is a statement by Richard Baines, who accused him of heresy in the first place (for complicated reasons), and the other is a statement by Marlowe’s former roommate Thomas Kyd, taken while under torture. None of which means that Marlowe wasn’t an atheist or at least heterodox and didn’t say these things, just that there’s no non-dubious evidence that he did.
But whatever else you may say about Marlowe, he was a great playwright and certainly an influential one to Shakespeare. The description of his and Shakespeare’s working relationship is a little misleading — The Merchant of Venice and Richard II weren’t direct responses to The Jew of Malta and Edward II; both were written quite a bit later although it’s certainly true that they were strongly influenced by Marlowe’s plays (it’s just not Shakespeare going “look, Kit, I can write plays about Jews and gay kings too!), and Edward II in turn probably takes some of its inspiration from the huge success of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, so the influence doesn’t go exclusively one way.
He’s also a very different playwright from Shakespeare — I think in a lot of ways he’s less interested in character than in Big Ideas and especially in the whole will-to-power concept. He kind of reads like Nietzsche before Nietzsche. His favorite character type is the person who, through the force of his own ambition, rises to the heights of fortune and power before he overreaches himself and is destroyed: Tamburlaine, Barabas in The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, they’re all this type (as is Mortimer in Edward II, a curious example because this is about the only Marlowe play where this character isn’t the protagonist). He tends to write larger-than-life antiheroes — Shakespeare’s Richard III is probably the most Marlovian of his characters, although while Shakespeare’s plays especially in the first half of his career definitely show the influence of Marlowe, they generally have very different styles and attitudes (plus Shakespeare writes great female characters and Marlowe generally does not). One of the saddest things about Marlowe’s early death is that late in his career he starts to develop a more serious interest in the psychology of his characters:the title characters in Tamburlaine and The Jew of Malta (who has a lot more in common with Aaron the Moor than with Shylock) are essentially incredibly entertaining caricatures, but in Faustus and Edward II the characters start to become real people. Edward II especially is atypical of Marlowe for the amount of sympathy extended to all of its characters (as a general rule I would not call early Marlowe an unusually compassionate dramatist). It’s also, as it happens, my favorite Marlowe play. It’s sad because you really wonder where he might have gone had his talents had the chance to develop further.
(poorshadowspaintedqueens and I were talking about this at Kzoo: what a shame it is that Marlowe never got to write The Tragedy of Cesare Borgia? It would have been FUCKING FLAWLESS.)
YES. It would have been EPIC.
And then, I believe, we decided that Shakespeare—not to be outdone—would write The Tragicall History of Lucretia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander the Sixt, with Richard Burbage as Pope Alexander and Will Kemp as the Vice-Chancellor.
Because Shakespeare would have to put clowns in. And that would piss Marlowe off.
HELLO FANFIC AUTHORS IT’S TIME FOR A VOCAB LESSON
- wanton: sexually immodest or promiscuous
- wonton: a type of dumpling commonly found in Chinese cuisines
YOUR CHARACTERS SHOULD NOT BE MOANING LIKE A CHINESE DUMPLING OKAY THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT
either way, things are sure gonna get
Somebody else is getting all the good typos.
“I love a lot of American writers, but I think that for the most part the scope of what’s accepted as great American writing is very limited. What we have is good, but it’s limited. There’s not enough engagement with the world. Our literature’s not adventurous enough. The influence of MFA writing tends to make things repetitive. The idea that writing can be taught has changed the whole conversation in the U.S. Aaliya mentions the divergence in American literature, how it’s followed Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but not Faulkner. And that might have come about because you can’t teach Faulkner in class. You can’t say, “Write like Faulkner,” the way you can with Hemingway.”
Wasn’t going to reblog this after the first few sentences, because it’s a repetitive argument made constantly and it’s usually reductive. But they might have a point.
There’s a lot of advice that gets propagated, I think, because it’s easy to workshop: here’s a handout. You’ve got a draft? Here’s a checklist; go revise. I’ll make a scoring chart to grade it. The methodology doesn’t address large-scale issues like structure very well (if at all) and can’t handle things like voice, premise, or theme that are what hook us as readers.
“Oh, what have we done! It’s a biblical question, and we do not seem able to pull ourselves out of its familiar—essentially religious—cycle of shame, denial, and self-flagellation. This is why (I shall tell my granddaughter) the apocalyptic scenarios did not help—the terrible truth is that we had a profound, historical attraction to apocalypse. In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Like when the seasons changed in our beloved little island, or when the lights went out on the fifteenth floor, or the day I went into an Italian garden in early July, with its owner, a woman in her eighties, and upon seeing the scorched yellow earth and withered roses, and hearing what only the really old people will confess—in all my years I’ve never seen anything like it—I found my mind finally beginning to turn from the elegiac what have we done to the practical what can we do?”Zadie Smith nails exactly the problem with way we talk about climate change and the impending climate departure if we continue to do nothing in Elegy for a Country’s Seasons, over at The New York Review of Books (via alexanderchee)
Our sighting of a southwestern speckled rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii pyrrhus) in Joshua Tree NP. It stayed under the rock while we were there.
“Another myth that is firmly upheld is that disabled people are dependent and non-disabled people are independent. No one is actually independent. This is a myth perpetuated by disablism and driven by capitalism - we are all actually interdependent. Chances are, disabled or not, you don’t grow all of your food. Chances are, you didn’t build the car, bike, wheelchair, subway, shoes, or bus that transports you. Chances are you didn’t construct your home. Chances are you didn’t sew your clothing (or make the fabric and thread used to sew it). The difference between the needs that many disabled people have and the needs of people who are not labelled as disabled is that non-disabled people have had their dependencies normalized. The world has been built to accommodate certain needs and call the people who need those things independent, while other needs are considered exceptional. Each of us relies on others every day. We all rely on one another for support, resources, and to meet our needs. We are all interdependent. This interdependence is not weakness; rather, it is a part of our humanity.”AJ Withers Disability Politics and Theory p109 (via dandyfied)