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‘Shakespeare’s Library’ by Stuart Kells

Shakespeare's Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in LiteratureShakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature by Stuart Kells

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We talk of him so much, yet we know of him so little. As George Orwell elliptically put, “Much rubbish about Shakespeare has been written” by anti-Stradifordians as well as Stradifordians, and various sects of Shakespearenism still multiplying and evolving. Nonetheless, William Shakespeare is a heavyweight literary champion and a provocateur of authorship of his popular plays and pearly poems. He is certainly a man of reputation that gives him a status fusing highbrow elitism of a famed writer with a sensuous appeal of modern-day celebrity. In Shakespeare’s Library by Stuart Kells, such academic hullabaloos over Shakespeare’s authorship of his oeuvres are laid bare in the course of Kells’s quest of the existence of Shakespeare’s library, a list of books the Bard owned and a folio of his own manuscripts per se. For the meaning of Shakespeare’s library and its whereabouts are bound up with the authorship question and hold the key to the cardinal principles of humanities and truth.

Much of the debate on the Authorship Question arises from Shakespeare’s non-aristocratic family background despite the erudition of his writing. The book serves as Kells’s scholarly demurrer challenging the claim of Shakespeare’s non-authorship and flagrant plagiarism. Kells demurs at such preposterous allegations that negate the capacity of Shakespeare as a writer on the basis of ambiguity, uncertainty and prejudice. Kells takes a conservative liberal Socratic position of impartial advocate who defends the Bard on the grounds of (1) different social and historical criteria; and (2) the demonstrative evidence of the library at issue. With respect to Shakespeare’s alleged plagiarism, it must be regarded as a common de rigueur literary practice of his day that adopted the ideas from other source texts into an adaptor’s own. Adaptation was a revered literary custom, stretching back to medieval times when a monk modeled other people’s writings on his own because they taught him different styles of writing he wanted to emulate. Shakespeare lived before the advents of copyright and intellectual property law and psychoanalysis with the emergence of the powerful middle-class intellectuals as a substitute of the ecclesiastical caste. Therefore, we must not make an anachronistic mistake of looking at the past with our modern criteria in making parallel with our own time period, measuring the trend of the days against the principles of our day.

Further to the social background, including a lack of formal education and humble family origin, classicism is used as a touchstone of validity of Shakespeare’s authorship as carefully nuanced in this book. Kells as a learned adventurer shines through in this book. Various debates on the Authorship Question are rendered accessible as he pivots deftly from keenly observed details about the source texts to the universally equitable ramifications of his search of Shakespeare’s library in favor of the ingenious Bard. Kells wears his learning lightly here and writes with a general reader in mind, discriminating none regardless of social and cultural differences to invite all in his search of Shakespeare’s library. Shakespeare’s library is his source texts ingeniously combined into his world of imagination populated with star-crossed lovers, fairies, witches, kings, princes and a parade of various walks of life, all manifested in his legacy of literature still revered by all around the world. It is an excellent case of dispersion of collective knowledge throughout society as an Elizabethan-styled meme, a unit of cultural imitation, which is a form of cultural revolution in which art always flourishes.

If Chaucer foundered the bedrock of English literature, Shakespeare popularized it through his appealing works all over the world, making his timeless quotations indexes of wisdom and wits percolated through our daily lives. Rather than as a serious grim-faced man of letters, such as what Leo Tolstoy and his Anglo-Saxon ilk liked to lionize, Shakespeare was a fashionable Elizabethan literary tradesman, a workaday dramatist who had a feat of converting existing works into new kinds of drama, packed full of scintillating wits and memorable lines easy to understand with themes blended with the highbrow concepts and the lowbrow dramas that were contemporaneously popular in Shakespeare’s time. In Shakespeare’s library, readers will meet the Man as he was thanks to Kells’s impressive scholarship of Shakespearean literature and general erudition combined with his Socratic principle of “Knowledge to All” as manifested in his approachable writing style. Moreover, readers will come to know more interesting, more lively and more attractive libertine Shakespeare who was a practical artist with a wordily sense of success and vision to match. For he knew that to create was to recombine by letting his fancy free in his solipsistic library of books and notebooks – his Cabinet of Curiosities in Mind.

farewell to sunday

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The day is gone, and the sun
disappears into the West,
As the chariot of Apollo is done
with its quest for the day’s zest.
And leisure and laughter make
the hours seem too short.
As this day is nearing to end,
so do my minutes hasten to the end.
Farewell sighs and sings a ballad.

a peach tree

I was angry with my foe
I hid it, my ire did grow.
And I tendered it in fears,
Day and night with my tears:
And I dried it with smiles,
And with false whispers.
And it grew day by day.
Till it bore a peach pretty,
And my foe saw it ripen
and knew it was mine.
And into my secret garden,
When all’s veiled in the dark;
In the morning delighted I see;
My foe trying to reach the tree.

Author’s note: This is my take on William Blake’s “A Poison Tree.” I have to write this before saying goodbye to today and hello to tomorrow, lest all negative feelings should remain in my mind’s garden. For it is how I feel sometimes… But do we not?…

good bye to sunday

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Sunday is the saddest day of a week because it heralds a start of another week that brings unknowns to all mankind: employed/unemployed, men/women, affluent/impecunious, and educated/uneducated. Every minute of Sunday hastens to its end like as the waves make towards the quicksands. For Paul Collie, who works as a manager at a supermarket, is an imperturbable person hardly under the weather, Sunday means constructive solipsism in which his artistic sensibilities and intellectual proclivity are manifested in such forms of gardening, reading and writing otherwise smothered under the pretext of financial needs and familial responsibilities during weekdays. Gardening, because it gives him a sense of being a master of fine arts akin to Michelangelo; reading and writing, because he it teaches the styles of writing he can employ in his own writing. On this late afternoon, Paul is having a jovial time with his like-minded friend Hans Cow, a senior librarian at Tolkien Library and a part-time private investigator, who called on him to talk about the current affairs of the week. This week’s topical subject of the Sunday talk: “Elitist Art exclusive of the undesirable”

Hans: “Did you read an article about Snotty Museum turning down an annually pledged largess from Johnny Mojo, the chairman of the cleaning company Mojo? The reason for the rejection was said to be of moral, ethical standards because Johnny Mojo was a one-time drug addict and affiliated with some kind of money-laundering scheme. But you know what? I think it’s all about posturing, gestures of some kind of uneducated, former jailbird upstart trying to hobnob with the big wigs and the celebs that these so-called “Guardians of Fine Artsimg_0458” do not want to approve of. For Mojo – let’s be brutally honest – does not meet their standards of impeccable donors. What they want is immaculate man without original sin!”

Paul: “Yeah, I read that Mojo guy. You are right in saying that Snotty Museum’s decision img_0457was rather foolhardy and rash, groundless in their a priori reasoning that a donor should be also morally and spiritually immaculate to support artistic causes. Which is a supercilious stance on the puritanical touchstone of sponsorship. That a company doing a dubious business should not contribute its munificence to the museum is a hokum, nothing but a supercilious illustration of elitist art exclusive of the populace. The museum do not want to be involved in moral money-laundering, or “art-washing”. I want to think that Mojo’s intention to donate his wealth to the museum was bona fide because art is open to all, not a prerogative of the moneyed. Besides, art is for art’s sake and not should be used as a tool for political campaigns or social dogmas. Lucy Maud Montgomery expressed the same sentiment, and W.H. Auden also concurred that art should not be trapped by political and social systems. The museum’s decision shows that even a realm of art has been a domain of social Spencerism…

Pleasure and activity make the afternoon hours seem short as the discussions seem to have no ends. There’s nothing like a merry heart that goes all day when talking and listening to a kindred spirit who understands your mind’s world and encourages to continue cultivating your mind’s garden. The sun has moved closer to the horizon, and soon the evening will come. Then this Sunday will become a part of the memories of the past as a new Monday comes. Then it all seems legit to chime the timeless Latin phrase: “Tempus figit”. So it does. Times flies.

Malaise – chapter ten

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‘Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?’ Iris, the interrupted woman whose inverted elitism outed her of the quotidian pleasure, was finally on the verge of private rebellion against the lofty isolation from the world that beckoned her yonder with an alluring panoply of all things sensuous, tactile and visceral, like the tempting fruit from the tree of knowledge. The more she thought about the mysterious man’s Byronic face and Olympian physique, the stronger the flame of her heart grew. It’s really a foolish heart, thought Iris, but when she had no other than a woman’s reason and thought him so, who could berate her? Call it the affair of the heart or whimsical infatuation of the beauty that looked so patrician, so elated, and so untouchable. Yet, her heart was telling her that this time she should surrender to the power of the human nature by letting the force of desire besiege her solitary castle and infiltrate it in all corners without mercy of the inter-cultural code of ethics built on puritanical dictatorship of the body and the soul.

Consumed in the flame of passion, the soul of Iris was in communion with that of Dido, who loved Aeneas more than he loved her. Poor Dido- She deserved a better man who could return her love, for she was beautiful inside and out. Silly Dido- She should have moved on even after her lover deserted her for the glory of his predestined royalty in a new land. Dido was a woman of passion, and so was Iris. They lived on the idea of love and must have figures of love, for that’s what gave them perks of life. But at least, Dido had Aeneas, and her love was consummated in the cave on a stormy day, albeit it was all staged by Venus, the goddess of love and the mother of Aeneas, and Juno, the ever-jealous goddess. Dido’s love was actualized even for a short period of time when she was alone together with Aeneas. Alas! Poor Iris, I knew her, my dear readers. It all seems to me now that Cupid’s arrows took aims at her, but not the figure of her love. Her love was alone, her existence was always invisible, and she was not allowed the joy of love. Iris was dissociated from a parliament of Love, a congress of lovers.

It was said that the idea of love to the classical Athenians was primarily erotic, rather than platonic, instinctual rather than spiritual, physical rather than mental. What we now understand about love was no more than a close bond between family members or a master and a horse or a dog. What Iris was feeling now was a combined love of Eros and Agape. She wanted the wholesomeness of love, as in the union of Cupid and Psyche. People would think that she was disinterested in love because of her beautiful but austere look that prevented people from being jovial with her. She never told her love to anyone but let concealment feed on her damask cheeks. She pined in thought with a green and yellow melancholy with solitude as her steady companion.