Monday, April 23, 2012

Based on an Historical Presumption...

Happy Shakespeare's Birthday!

We know from documentary evidence that William was baptized on April 26, 1564, so historians, being the speculative sorts they often are, presume that, three days being a usual or traditional period of time to intervene between a birth and a baptism, Shakespeare was born on April 23, which, by coincidence or providence, is both St. George's feast day and the date of Shakespeare's death in 1616.

The nimis speculative tendencies of historians deserve their own moderately scathing post. Keep an eye out for that. You don't want to read a book review I once composed on a book about monuments and the rhetorical use of urban spaces. It may have been a slight overreaction.

I will conclude with a grammatically and rhetorically notable quotation from Shakespeare; it's a fairly famous excerpt from Richard II, II.i., spoken by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster:

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out[...]

This sentence is grammatically notable because it contains what amounts to the longest subject in the history of English literature; if someone cares to show me a longer, I will not dispute it,!

It is rhetorically notable mainly due to its buildup, its final contrast, its pathos, and its overall masterful use of all the components of poetry: rhythm, sound, and vocabulary. It's just awesome.

I don't mind admitting I like poetry, and (not that it matters, but...) that I agree with the great overarching consensus that Shakespeare is among the best of poets.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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