"It's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff." (Fred Rogers)

August 2016

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Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 04:16 pm
(Crossposted from LiveJournal)

Six years ago, the Friday Five blog I sometimes refer to in these pages posted its first set of Shakespeare-themed questions on the Friday closest to April 23rd (the Bard's alleged b'day). Shakespeare questions didn't become an annual FF tradition, but there *were* subsequent sets last year and this year, both of which I've answered in the blog (2015's is at LJ / 2016's is here at DW).

And just for fun, I'll now go back and try that original set from 2010. Ready?

1. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander says,
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth…”
How has this proven (or not proven) to be the case in your life?

Gosh, faithful readers, do I even have to type this one out for you? I have only been involved in one "course of true love." I truly loved the Man and believed myself to be truly loved by him, to the point of regarding "us" as one of those special "soul-mate" kind of couples. We were together 22 years, and while life got exponentially more challenging after we had kids, we were a team and we chugged along pretty smoothly ... right up till the moment when he met someone else online and decided that "smooth" was over-rated. Life's been a bumpy ride for me ever since, in no small part because (even six years down the road) I can't stop loving him.

2. In Hamlet, the title character says, “Frailty, thy name is woman!” Who in your life has proven this not to be true? And if you’re willing to share, who in your life has proven this to be completely true?

Hamlet used this phrase to diss his mother, whom he regarded as weak in every sense -- physically, spiritually, morally -- for having married Claudius (a) at all, (b) so soon after Hamlet Sr.'s death, and (c) in the light of the fact that Claudius was both her bro-in-law and her husband's killer. But even if it's true of Gertrude in particular, the statement as Hamlet made it (about women in general) has to rank right up there among the most patriachal and misogynistic in literature.

In fact, half a century's experience of life has taught *me* that women tend to be strong in all the senses named above, able to withstand quite a bit without caving in. Though I'm hetero in, er, orientation, I think I prefer women to men in every other way. So there, Hamlet. But the question asked for an example, so here's one.

My mom's determined survival in the face of all the challenges she's faced since her near-fatal car crash in 1977 provides me with a very close-to-home example of the strength a woman is capable of. Besides the physical pain she's endured, she's also dealt with a lot of mental and emotional stuff regarding the limitations placed on her once-active life. I imagine a lot of people would've thrown in the towel. She, instead, re-learned how to walk, finished raising her family, held jobs, volunteered, and even pursued a few hobbies, all while maintaining her faith and being the kind of person others were drawn to (I don't know anyone who dislikes my mom). If she's a bit weary and cranky sometimes now, well into her 70s, I'm inclined to give her a pass.

There are days on which I look at my own continued existence as evidence of something similar -- I mean, I *really* felt like giving up after the Man left, but with a young child it was not an option, so I found the moral strength it took to keep going. That said, I have not achieved it with the same good grace I've observed in my mom over the years. I'm more of a whiner (at least on the blog and in my prayers), and I am nothing if not dependent on the kindness of friends and strangers, so there are days when I see myself as a better example of frailty than of strength.

But NOT the frailty "of women" in general. Just of *me* in particular. Sure, some of my weakness is connected to the kind of gender-role socialization I received growing up (I have to remind myself constantly that, despite what I internalized in my formative years, I don't actually *need* a man to complete me -- nor to cut my lawn, hammer a nail into the wall, dispatch a scary spider, etc.). But women in general aren't weak, a fact I believe in so strongly that when I *am* weak, one of the things that compounds my sadness is the knowledge that I'm letting the side down.

3. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Pistol says,
Why then the world’s mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.
Ignoring the possible sexual meaning here, how do you feel about oysters?

Eww. Yuck. Next question?

4. In The Merchant of Venice, Lorenzo says,
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
Do you agree, and have you known anyone who seemed to be completely unmoved by any kind of music?

While I'd have trouble understanding a person who was incapable of being moved by music, I would reserve my actual distrust for the person who had no room for the aesthetic in *any* form (music, visual art, stories, dance, etc.). I can only think of one such person (the no-art-at-all kind, I mean) of my acquaintance, and I have to say that, while circumstances have required us to develop a working relationship, I neither understand nor completely trust him.

5. Is Shakespeare overrated, or is he truly the western world’s greatest writer?

Couldn't he be both? When he's good, there's no one better, but there are also times when he doesn't live up to his own hype.


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