Monday, 9 January 2017

365 Days of Shakespeare.

Of course it turns out that it won’t quite be 365 days of Shakespeare, because I took the weekend off to ride my horse and watch the racing. A year of Shakespeare, then, which is not too dusty.

Almost the moment I start reading, I find this glittering gem –

Fare you well, my lord; and believe this
of me, there can be no kernel in this light nut; the
soul of this man is his clothes. Trust him not in
matter of heavy consequence; I have kept of them
tame, and know their natures. Farewell, monsieur:
I have spoken better of you than you have or will to
deserve at my hand; but we must do good against evil.

I think the insults in this play are very splendid indeed. The soul of this man is his clothes is a crusher indeed.

I absolutely love the Lords. This is the First Lord, with a tremendous universal truth:
The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and
ill together: our virtues would be proud, if our
faults whipped them not; and our crimes would
despair, if they were not cherished by our virtues.

And here is another roaringly good insult, this time from Parolles, who rather reminds me of Malvolio:
 I knew the young count to be
a dangerous and lascivious boy, who is a whale to
virginity and devours up all the fry it finds.

A whale to virginity, devouring up all the fry, is a conceit of absolute brilliance, although rather disgusting. I wonder whether Shakespeare sat in his room after he wrote that line and laughed and laughed. I think I might have done.

And one more magnificent, unbridled set of insults before I go, from Lafeu:

No, no, no, your son was misled with a snipt-taffeta
fellow there, whose villanous saffron would have
made all the unbaked and doughy youth of a nation in
his colour: your daughter-in-law had been alive at
this hour, and your son here at home, more advanced
by the king than by that red-tailed humble-bee I speak of.

I have absolutely no idea what a snipt-taffeta fellow is, but I know it cannot be good. And a red-tailed humble-bee sounds very dodgy indeed. I think Shakespeare had more fun that he could shake a stick at when he was writing this. I am certainly having a lot of fun reading it, although it is quite nonsensical in many ways. But that does not matter; one is carried along on a tide of language and brio.

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