Normally I'm not prompted much by blog suggestions, but I just read, "What would Shakespeare blog?" That instantly got me to thinking is the question as if Shakespeare were alive now or as if he were blogging on June 8th, 1601?
If he were alive now, would he get so wrapped up in technology that he'd be writing film scripts and writing on a laptop between meetings? Maybe he'd feel as I'm feeling with my cell phone ringing and Facebook friends dashing notes about the pies they just ate and email scammers trying to get me to send them five thousand dollars to get their fortunes in Afghanistan: it's too much. Novelist Jonathan Franzen superglued his laptop's ethernet shut, and maybe Shakespeare, reading about that on a blog, would do the same thing.
But no, he's blogging, so his ethernet is fine. Thus instead of writing the next important something, he's distracted as I am now.
Films being the popular medium of our day, he'd be a screenwriter and he might be trying to get Ron Howard to consider a film on Ronald Reagan, showing the man as president when the Iran Contra scandal was at its peak and a third of all Americans wanted him out of office. The bard would show the ironies of the man, popularized as a Federal Government Shrinker, but who increased spending 2.5% a year and exploded the national debt from 700 billion to nearly three trillion, making us think that fewer taxes on the rich means money would trickle down to the middle-class. We're still waiting for that rain.
Or would, say, a Fairy Godmother show up in 1601 with an iPad, explain it all, and let Shakespeare write to Red Room in the future?
Let's go with the latter, as it'll let me get into his mindset of June 1601. He may have still been polishing Hamlet then, so mortality was high on his mind, even though he was thirty-seven years old. His father, John, would die later that year in September, and Dad was 70--very old for those days. John Shakespeare might have been getting quite frail. That might have put mortality on William's mind.
William had also been married eighteen years at that point, and his oldest daughter, Susana, had turned eighteen the month before. Younger daughter Judith was sixteen, her twin, Hamnet, having died five years earlier. That death, combined with hundreds of people still dying weekly from the bubonic plague in London, might have kept mortality on his mind.
His Globe Theatre, built two years earlier, was going strong, and Richard II had premiered a few months before. Queen Elizabeth was still in power after the Earl of Essex, one of her favorite people, had tried to seize control months earlier. She signed his death warrant, and it took three strokes of the executioner's axe to cut off his head.
Shakespeare also wrote the poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle" that year, which is about death of an ideal love. It includes the following lines:
Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle fled
In a mutual flame from hence.
So he'd definitely be blogging about mortality. Maybe he wouldn't blog. Maybe he'd put something on Facebook:
Just ate a pie, a blackberry pie.
Oh happy fruit of rust
With my teeth, thy crust
Let me die.
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