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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

William Shakespeare

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

T.S. Eliot opened his magnum opus, The Wasteland” with the following words: ”April Is the cruelest month . . . .” Well, perhaps. But I believe April is a wonderful month ­­­­––– Shakespeare, Immanuel Kant, and Ella Fitzgerald were all  born in April. And, often overlooked is the freeing of Dachau, that pit of evil, by the American army, on April 29, 1945. So, in the next 4 posts are a few words about all four of these April miracles.

April 23,1564, was probably the actual birthday of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, who was baptized on April 26, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. Unfortunately, he left behind no personal papers; so much of what we know, or think we know, about him comes to us from public and court documents, with a fair measure of inference and speculation. We do know that his father, John, was a glove maker and alderman, and his mother, Mary Arden, was a landed heiress. William’s extensive knowledge of Latin and Greek likely came from his education at the well-respected local grammar school. That was the extent of his formal education, which has led to hundreds of years of conspiracy theories disputing the authorship of his plays, since many found it unbelievable that he could have written so knowledgeably about history, politics, royalty, and foreign lands on a grammar school education. Various figures, such as Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and even Queen Elizabeth I, have been put forward as possible — though unproven — ghost writers.

We know that he married the older — and pregnant — Anne Hathaway when he was 18 and she was 26, and she gave birth to a daughter, Susanna, six months later. Twins Hamnet and Judith followed two years after that, and son Hamnet died at age 11. It’s speculated that his son’s death hit Shakespeare hard, because he began to write Hamlet soon afterward.

He moved to London around 1588 — possibly to escape deer-poaching charges in Stratford — and began a career as an actor and a playwright. By 1594, he was also managing partner of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a popular London theater troupe. He was popular in his lifetime, but his popularity didn’t rise to the level that George Bernard Shaw referred to as “bardolatry” until the 19th century.

In 1611, he retired to Stratford and made out his will, leaving to his wife, Anne, his “second-best bed.” He died on or around his birthday in 1616, and was buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford, leaving a last verse behind as his epitaph: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare / to dig the dust enclosed here. / Blessed be the man who spares these stones, / and cursed be he who moves my bones.”

Though biographical details may be sketchy, his literary legacy is certain. He wrote 38 plays: including the great tragedies Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth and Othello. He also wrote 154 sonnets, and several epic narrative poems. He created some of the most unforgettable characters ever written for the stage, and shifted effortlessly between formal court language and coarse vernacular. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him with coining 3,000 new words, and has contributed more phrases and sayings to the English language than any other individual. His idioms have woven themselves so snugly into our daily conversations that we aren’t even aware of them most of the time, phrases such as “a fool’s paradise,” “a sorry sight,” “dead as a doornail,” “Greek to me,” “come what may,” “eaten out of house and home,” “forever and a day,” “heart’s content,” “slept a wink,” “love is blind,” “night owl,” “wild goose chase,” and “into thin air.”

Though we have no way of knowing whether the Bard of Avon was writing of his own impending retirement when he wrote Prospero’s soliloquy from The Tempest in about 1610, it’s satisfying to think so:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

 

RETURN OF THE BLOG MAN

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Well, I’m back again. No, I didn’t die. My blog went into blogland hibernation and I went into a writing frenzy in an effort to completely re-do my unpublished novel  “Donovan’s Run,” which took hours and hours of my already shrinking life. But it’s done. Has gone out to several writers for critiques and to others who have an interest in reading the manuscript before I attempt to find a publisher.

So, here goes my blog with some bits and pieces of what’s going on in our completely daft world. I hope this causes you to once more read my blog and give me feedback.

Schopenhauer

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

March 22 was the birthday of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer , born in Danzig — now Gdańsk, Poland — in 1788. Schopenhauer believed that we live in a dual universe: the one that we perceive with our limited human senses and reasoning, and the universe as it truly is, which is unknowable and may or may not conform to our construct of “reason.” He was also pessimistic, believing that happiness is an illusion, our desires can never truly be satisfied, and the only way to attain peace of mind is by maintaining very low expectations. He was interested in Eastern religions and agreed with the Buddhist viewpoint that the nature of life is suffering, so happiness was simply freedom from it. His views on women influenced early feminists, who rejected his claim that women were childish and meant to obey. Schopenhauer never married.

 

e.e.cummings/American Poet

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

The poet E.E. Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings), was born in Cambridg, Massachusetts in October 14,1894. He spent most of his life unhappy and irritable in New York, struggling to pay the bills, ostracized by other writers for his unpopular political views, yet he wrote many poems in a naïve style about the beauty of nature and love.

He had published several books of poetry, including Tulips and Chimneys (1923), but was still relatively unknown. He came to wider public attention by giving a series of lectures at Harvard University. Most lecturers spoke from behind a lectern, but he sat on the stage, read his poetry aloud, and talked about what it meant to him. The faculty members were embarrassed by his earnestness, but the undergraduates adored him and came to his lectures in droves. By the end of the 1950s, he had become the most popular poet in America. He loved performing, and loved the applause, and the last few years of his life were the happiest. He died on September 3, 1962.

In the first edition of his Collected Poems, he wrote in the preface, “The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople. it’s no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. You and I are human beings; most people are snobs.”

 

Spinoza/Philosopher/Theologian

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Benedict Spinoza was born on November 24, 1632 in Amsterdam. He was a philosopher, the descendent of Portuguese Jews who immigrated to the Netherlands seeking religious tolerance. Young Spinoza studied Hebrew, the Old Testament, the Talmud, and Cabalaist traditions of mysticism and miracle. Fluent in five languages, Spinoza wrote in Latin, which he learned from Christian teachers who introduced the young scholar to mathematics and philosophy.

By age 24, Spinoza had developed his own ideas. He asserted that everything in the universe was made from the same divine substance, possessing infinite characteristics. He defined God and the laws of nature as one and the same, a part of this infinite substance. All of this was too far-flung from the dominant vision of an almighty, singular godhead for Spinoza’s religious contemporaries to tolerate, and Spinoza was excommunicated.

This did not deter him from his intellectual pursuits. He said, “Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand. He left Amsterdam and supported himself grinding lenses while writing books of philosophy. He lived in solitude and studied the work of Bacon, Boyle, Descartes, and Huygens. Spinoza published three books while he was alive, though more of his writings were published later by friends. The only book that named him as an author was Principles of the Philosophy of René Descartes (1663). He withheld much of his work because he feared retribution from a group of theologians who had publicly accused him of atheism.

For more than a century after his death, Spinoza’s work was widely considered heretical and atheistic. But toward the end of the 18th century, his ideas underwent a revival. Thinkers called him holy and a man intoxicated with the divine. He influenced philosophers such as Goethe, Herder, Lessing, and Novalis. According to the philosopher Hegel, “to be a philosopher, one must first become a Spinozist.”

Spinoza said, “The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free.”

And, If you want the future to be different from the present, study the past.”

 


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