Whether in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond — or in various unknown, lost, or mythological places — Early Modern actors tread stage boards that could be familiar or unfamiliar ground. Shakespeare made some creative choices in the settings of his plays, often reaching across vast distances, time, and history.
Why does the world need yet another book on how to write fantasy fiction? Because the public continues to show a nearly insatiable desire for more stories in this genre, and increasing numbers of aspiring authors gravitate toward writing it. As our real lives become more hectic, over-scheduled, insignificant, socially disconnected, and technologically laden, there seems to be a need among readers to reach for a place where the individual matters.
In Shakespeare’s comedies, sex is not only connected to marriage, but postdates it. Prospero in The Tempest insists to his prospective son-in-law that he not break the “virgin-knot” of his intended bride, Miranda, “before / All sanctimonious ceremonies may / With full and holy rite be ministered,” lest “barren hate, / Sour-eyed disdain, and discord . . . bestrew / The union of your bed with weeds so loathly / That you shall hate it both” (4.1.15-22).
Sex was far from simple in 16th century England. Shakespeare himself wed a woman eight years his senior, a departure from the typical ages of both partners. While some of his characters follow the common conventions of Elizabethan culture (male courtship and the “transfer” of a woman from the care of her father to her husband), others show marked indifference toward appropriate gender roles and sexuality.
Love and literature are perfect companions. Love has been, and continues to be, an inspiration for famous and celebrated authors around the world, who have written great literary masterpieces on romantic infatuations and passions. The characters they depict make a lasting impression on us, the readers – after all, who hasn’t dreamed of the Juliet to their Romeo, or the Ron to their Hermoine?
Shakespeare made many gifts to the English language, but his most memorable gift in the particularly rich and rarefied area of euphemisms for sexual intercourse comes in the opening scene of Othello, when Iago strives to provoke Desdemona’s father Brabantio to outrage with the news that ‘your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.’
When the Supreme Court concluded the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges hearings with a 5–4 vote to legalize same–sex marriage, the majority and dissent disagreed as on the place of marriage in constitutional law, a question related to divergent views of the institution’s historical purpose. The majority insisted that marriage has always been about love and companionship, the dissent that it has always been procreation.
Along with death and trees, love is probably the most commonly explored theme in literature. So many of our favorite maxims and aphorisms about love are drawn from classical fiction. But how well do we really know these quotes or the novels and poems from which they derive?
History and poetry hardly seem obvious bed-fellows – a historian is tasked with discovering the truth about the past, whereas, as Aristotle said, ‘a poet’s job is to describe not what has happened, but the kind of thing that might’. But for the Romans, the connections between them were deep: historia . . . proxima poetis (‘history is closest to the poets’), as Quintilian remarked in the first century AD. What did he mean by that?
Whether he fills his scenes with raunchy innuendos, or boldly writes erotic poetry, or frequently reverses the gender norms of the time period, Shakespeare addresses the multifaceted ways in which sex, love, marriage, relationships, gender, and sexuality play an integral part of human life.
English grammar has been closely bound up with that of Latin since the 16th century, when English first began to be taught in schools. Given that grammatical instruction prior to this had focused on Latin, it’s not surprising that teachers based their grammars of English on Latin. The title of John Hewes’ work of 1624 neatly encapsulates its desire to make English grammar conform to that of Latin.
Considering the many love affairs, sexual liaisons, and marriages that occur in Shakespeare’s plays, how many of them accurately represent their real-life counterparts? Genuine romantic entanglements certainly don’t work out as cleanly as the ending of Twelfth Night, where Sebastian and Olivia, Duke Orsino and Viola, and Toby and Maria all wind up as married couples.
Over the years since it was written, many millions must have sung ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (roughly translated as ‘days long past’) while sharing Mr. Micawber’s ignorance of what of its words actually mean. Most of us go through the year without singing a single song by Robert Burns, and then, within the space of 25 days, sing this one twice on January 1st and 25th
The scripture known as the Dasam Granth Sahib or the ‘Scripture of the Tenth King,’ has traditionally been attributed to Guru Gobind Singh. It was composed in a volatile period to inspire the Sikh warriors in the battle against the Moghuls, and many of the compositions were written for the rituals related to the preparation for war (Shastra puja) and for the battlefield.
At the outset of an undergraduate Shakespeare course I often ask my students to make a list of ten things that may not, or do not, exist. I say “things” because I want to be as vague as possible. Most students submit lists featuring zombies and mermaids, love charms and time travel. Hogwarts is a popular place name, as are Westeros and Middle Earth. But few students venture into religious territory.
What was Shakespeare’s religion? It’s possible to answer this seemingly simple question in lots of different ways. Like other English subjects who lived through the ongoing Reformation, Shakespeare was legally obliged to attend Church of England services. Officially, at least, he was a Protestant. But a number of scholars have argued that there is evidence that Shakespeare had connections through his family and school teachers with Roman Catholicism, a religion which, through the banning of its priests, had effectively become illegal in England.