Shakespeare: Poet & Playwright

Truth is independent of belief.

I would like to consider myself a mild mannered man. Someone who exhibits self control. A man of temperance and longsuffering. In short, I strive to be a gentleman. But every once in a while something stokes sufficient righteous indignation in me to take some sort of action. I may not be mad enough to “bust some windows out”, as my father would say, but I am concerned enough to take up my pen.

The matter which has inspired me to write was a discussion board assignment for my Theatre Appreciation class.

Check out the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’s website under the Activities folder, and read the Declaration.  Based on the information provided, do you think that the man we know as William Shakespeare wrote the plays of Shakespeare?  If no, who do you think may have written the plays? 

Here is the link the text if you are so inclined to read it. If not, suffice it to say that this is a link to an organization that doubts that William Shakespeare wrote the plays ascribed to his name. This is not a new movement, and it’s not really what bothers me. Anyone who is above average will have their critics. As a convinced Christian, I am accustomed to the doubting crowd. Truth is independent of belief. 

This was my response on the discussion board.

I have no problem believing that the man William Shakespeare is the author of the plays and sonnets ascribed to his name. Some of the reasons given for doubting his authorship are absurd. For instance, spelling in the English language was not standardized in Shakespeare’s time, which accounts for the variant spellings of his name. Doubters also point out that Shakespeare was uneducated, or received minimal education at best. This, I believe, is the heart of the controversy: how could an uneducated man from a small town in the country write some of the most highly revered masterpieces of English literature? This testament to the human genius is difficult for many academic minds to comprehend.

Too much attention to textual and source criticism degrades the value of the work of art. We may not know much about the author’s life, but we do know that he had a near perfect understanding of human life, and a mastery of the English language.
For more information on this subject, I would suggest reading Will of the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt.

In short, the burden of proof is on the doubters. To date there has been insufficient evidence to dethrone William Shakespeare as a literary genius.

So now you know how I feel about Shakespeare’s authorship. Perhaps I am wrong, probably not. I just believe that ordinary people are capable of doing extraordinary things and being incredibly gifted, even without formal education. Please understand me, I am not against education. This whole article is about something that happened in a college course. Brilliance is not predicated on education. We all know some 

There were only seven other responses to the discussion so far. They were all in doubt of Shakespeare’s credibility, but that isn’t what bothered me. What’s a slobbering hog to a jaybird? What I find alarming is how casually and quickly they came to this conclusion. 

By reading some of their responses I gathered that this was the first time that many of them realized that Shakespeare’s authorship has been in question. It was clear that they had allowed a single article with a decided slant to influence their opinion. Their responses were so casual. Let us remember that this is college discussion board; a rather annoying assignment which very few college students give much thought. 

As an unashamedly fan of the works of William Shakespeare it would be disappointing to find out that he did not author the plays and sonnets which bear his name; but other than cheapening these works of art for me, disproving his authorship has little or no significance in light of the weightier matters of life. My concern is if someone can be swayed so easily on a matter as trivial as the credibility of one of the pillars of English literature, will they be able to find solid ground when it comes to anything of actual importance? Or will they be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine? 

 

 

 

My First Guitar

When I received my first guitar, I finally found something that I could excel with.

I suppose that for the first decade of my conscious life, I merely observed other people do things that they truly enjoyed. My poor vision and depth perception made catching a football or baseball a terrifying ordeal, much to the annoyance of my older brother. My lack of enthusiasm for hunting and fishing puzzled my father. My inclination toward music, but lack of motivation to practice piano perplexed my mother, and frustrated my piano instructors-Yvonne Clinkscales and Pam Roberts. When I received my first guitar, I finally found something that I could excel with.

After two years of playing the broom, I signed up for guitar class at school which finally convinced my parents to buy me a guitar. My Dad told Mom to drive me to Mars Music in Homewood, AL, which was about the same as driving to Mars itself as far as I knew. 

“What kind of guitar are you looking for?” Mom asked as we sat in the stand still traffic on 280.

“Electric.” I said. This would be like asking a child what flavor ice cream they wanted and getting the response, “Red.”

I was completely unfamiliar with the details of guitars, but that didn’t matter. By some miracle, I had convinced my parents to purchase me a guitar and we were on our way to do just that. The people at Mars would know all about guitars.

We got to Mars Music despite the traffic. I had never been in a music store before, and I was mesmerized. As we walked through the door it was like walking into a concert through backstage. The lights were dim in the building save for spotlights on a floor to ceiling wall full of guitars. There was a new exciting smell of fog machines and rented sound equipment. I walked over to the guitar wall and just stared. Now I knew how my brother felt when we went to the sporting goods store and he would just stare at the hunting rifles. This was where I belonged, and I didn’t want to let this feeling go away.

I was still standing there when mom walked up behind me with a sales associate.

“So y’all are looking for a guitar?” He asked. 

“Electric.” I said, still looking at the wall of shiny guitars.

“Let me show you what I recommend for beginners.” He walked us over to the starter packs and point out the Squier Strat. We looked at it. 

“This is everything you need. Rock’n Roll in a box.” He said cheerfully. 

We dug the guitar out of the box and I gave it a couple awkward strums. It felt right in my hands. 

I still had to learn to play it, but having that guitar was a turning point in my life. It did wonders for my self esteem. Until my parents bought me a guitar, I had never really fit anything else I had tried. It took them going out of their way to help me find my way. After all these years, I still have that same guitar. I leave it out in the living room so my son can pick it up and play whenever he feels like it. It would be nice to see him learn how to play, but I’m ok if he doesn’t. I hope that I can find where he fits, even if it means taking him to someone who can steer him in the right direction.  

Assignments

At the time, I did not fully appreciate how much group projects were preparing me for the real world.

There are three school assignments from my childhood that still haunt me. They don’t haunt me in a sense that I lose sleep over them, I just remember them vividly. Did I do my very best? Yes, there is no doubt about that. The real question is did I do right?

Art was one of my favorite classes in elementary school. Holding our thumbs behind our backs, we would walk single file through the maze of halls to Mrs. Newton’s art room in the back of the school. The sun would shine in through the high windows, casting a ray of light made visible by the dusty air. I loved Art.

One day, my class made the trek to the Art room only to find a substitute teacher. In some situations this may have been welcome, but it was a disappointment for Art. The teacher had big blonde hair and wore lots of make up. I’m sure she was stylish at the time, and possibly even now if you are going for the 80’s Country Singer Sweetheart look. As pretty as she may have been, in my seven year old mind it seemed that she wasn’t very aware of what was going on; like she was a sentence, or maybe a paragraph behind the rest of the adults we were accustomed to at school.

“Mrs. Newton left you an assignment.” She said as we all settled into our chairs.

“She wants you to make a picture using letters.”

I completely understood the assignment. Mrs. Newton had shown us examples in a previous class. She held up a picture of an acoustic guitar that a high school student had drawn. At a distance, it looked like an ordinary picture, but upon closer examination you realized the picture was composed of letters, even words, in varying sizes. I thought it was the dumbest thing we had seen so far in art class.

So I sat there for a moment contemplating this outrageous assignment. I could waste my time and labor on a piece that I detested, or I could put my talents to better use and create something from the heart, something worthy of my signature. I drew a battleship. It was a splendid World War II era battleship with more gun turrets than the Yamato. I was proud of it. Even so, I failed the assignment.

In Fifth grade, Mrs. McManus instructed us to draw a word in a way that enhanced the definition of the word. I was assigned the word “Fat”. Someone who had followed the instructions for the assignment would have drawn the letters F, A, and T with fat rolls. Once again, I fully understood the assignment, but I felt that this was a waste of my artistic ability: I drew a fat man in a tank top and Bermuda shorts. It was magnificent. Not only did I fail the assignment, I realized that my teacher thought I had not understood the assignment.

I took a class called Media Arts in High School, because I had already taken all of the other art classes. Mr. Williamson assigned us a stop motion film group project-which sounds like a good indie rock band name. For the most part, I’ve always loathed group projects. At the time, I did not fully appreciate how much group projects were preparing me for the real world. The idea of a stop motion film was very inspiring, but we utterly failed at creating an interesting plot. There were three characters: A comedian, an old man, and a chef with an unidentifiable foreign accent. In the film the old man is sitting in the audience listening to the comedian try to tell jokes. The old man mumbles a response at each joke before finally ordering a pizza from the chef.

To our credit, the artwork was good. I think we still made an exceptional grade, but we wouldn’t have won- nay, even been nominated for- an Academy Award in the short film category. For some reason, this assignment still bothers me the most. From time to time, I come up with better plot ideas and I think back to that project.

In a sense, life is about following instructions and working with people. There are some areas in my life that I wouldn’t dream of not following instructions; principally, my faith. On the other hand, I have often scoffed at any attempt to set boundaries on creativity. Furthermore, I have a hard time completing an assignment that fails to inspire me, but if I find the work inspiring I’m hardly ever satisfied with my efforts.

Doris McDaniel

She wore pearls and drove a Cadillac; a great big gold Cadillac.

Mrs. Doris McDaniel spoke with an old Southern accent. An accent not easily imitated even by Southerners; Hollywood always gets it wrong. She dropped her R’s which made her sound like 19th century southern aristocracy. She also wore pearls and drove a Cadillac; a great big gold Cadillac. This certainly encouraged my childhood idea that Mrs. McDaniel had descended from royal stock. I thought she was the richest woman in Shelby County. She may also have been the sweetest.

Already in her 70’s when I was a child, she still owned and ran an old store right in the middle of Vincent. Prime real estate which set the halfway mark for the Christmas Parades. I don’t know how long she had the store, it was just always there. Kind of like her: a fixture in the town. As long I could remember, she kept odd hours at the store. People knew the store was open if her Cadillac was parked out front. The store was the only place in Vincent where you could buy a set of snow skis. It was like a permanent indoor yard sale. I think she kept the store open just to get out of the house, and to see people. People always made her smile. I think people came in to see her too. They certainly weren’t looking for snow skis.

Mrs. McDaniel was Jared and Creed’s grandmother. They called her Granny Mac. She would watch them sometimes during the summer. Whenever we got a little rowdy, she would say things like, “Oh my! Boys, that’s not nice.” She had a way of sort gasping the “Oh my”, and stretching “Boys” out to have an extra syllable. Even so, I never saw her lose her composure: She was a lady.

We would hang out at her store sometimes; stopping in to say hello and to feel the air conditioning for a moment. It was usually a checkpoint before we went gallivanting down the railroad tracks. She was always happy to see us, or anyone else that came in. She treated everyone that came into her store the same way.

The last time I saw her I was an adult. “My, my, my! Look how you’ve grown.” She said energetically. I had never noticed how petite she was until I was grown.

I introduced my wife. “How are are you hon?” She reached in for a hug.

“She is beautiful Zane.” She had a way of throwing an extra syllable in my name too.

Mrs. Doris McDaniel passed away on January 11th, 2020 at the age of 95.

If you ever drive through the town of Vincent, Alabama, you’ll probably take the old parade route: Highway 231. You’ll know you’re in town once the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour, but you really aren’t downtown until you drive under the railroad overpass. The Christmas Tree will be on your left and Florey St with all the municipal offices on your right. There is a building on the right with a big sign that reads Doris McDaniel. Just know that one of the sweetest ladies that ever lived used to run that old store.

If that sign isn’t still there, it ought to be.

My wife and I window shopping at Mrs. McDaniel’s store.

The Semicolon

Now who is going to tell Mr. Dickens that perhaps the most powerful sentences in English literature is a run on?

Typewriter: It’s the longest word that you can spell using just the top line on the QWERTY keyboard. I’m going from memory here (just like everything else I write on here). In this case I can’t blame it on a fuzzy recollection of an event that I experienced back when the internet sounded like a Looney Tunes factory and gas was a quarter; I’m just too lazy and rushed for time to do any research on this topic. The QWERTY keyboard was developed so that the mechanical keyboards of the 19th century wouldn’t jam. The design worked, so it stuck. I mean we are still using the QWERTY keyboard almost a century and a half later even though the risk of jamming is no longer an obstacle. What is interesting to me when using the QWERTY keyboard that your right pinky rests on the semi colon: the most underused punctuation mark.

When I read one of my favorite 19th Century English authors, Charles Dickens, I’m not surprised that the semicolon made it on the main line of the keyboard back then, if in fact the key jamming prevention arrangement is true. I’ve always been fascinated by the Mr. Dickens’ mastery of the English language, and his paragraph long sentences made possible by the semicolon.

Even so, the opening paragraph of A Tale Of Two Cities is a single sentence that does not contain a single semicolon.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Now who is going to tell Mr. Dickens that perhaps the most powerful sentences in English literature is a run on?

If you were impressed by Charles Dickens’ sentences, try reading one from the Apostle Paul: the undisputed heavyweight champion of the semicolon. I’m sure he’d be flattered at that title, but since he wrote in ancient Greek, which has no punctuation, he wouldn’t know what a semicolon was. Jacobean translators commissioned by King James had to do their best framing the complete thoughts of one of the greatest minds in history.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, accord to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; eve in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14, Apostle Paul

My wife has nearly given up hope editing my blog. “I know you like long sentences, but you really could just put periods instead of commas.” She’s right. I do like long sentences. I was taught in elementary school that a sentence is a complete thought. I was always a little puzzled when my teachers got onto me about run on sentences when I was trying to put a complete thought into words. Perhaps we should have spent more time learning about semicolons and less time learning about Johnny Appleseed for the fourth year in a row.

There was one English teacher that tried to help me with my run on sentences; she wanted me to use transition words like, but, therefore; I didn’t want to. She also told me to not end sentences with a prepositions. What she never mentioned was semicolons. (Perhaps she did and I was drawing pictures of guitars) Now I must be forthright with you: I was not a, shall we say, motivated student; but I don’t remember any teacher spending much time teaching about semicolons; and I may be using them wrong; but this is all one thought, and it is my blog.

In short: I’d like to see more semicolons from all of you. Which is a tall order these days with the abbreviated language of text messaging. Rather than express our thoughts and feelings through spelling, we’ve almost reverted back to hieroglyphics with emojis.

I believe that people are capable of having, writing, reading, and comprehending complex and profound complete thoughts. Think big, and don’t let anyone tell you to think smaller.

A Husband's Guide to Christmas Shopping

My wife is a very reasonable person, an admirable characteristic, but there sometimes a gift must exceed the limits of practically and reach into frivolity and extravagance.

My wife is a very reasonable person, an admirable characteristic, but sometimes a gift must exceed the limits of practically and reach into frivolity and extravagance. You might could push your luck with a new appliance, but no woman wants to open a Christmas present and find a broom or mop.

I’m sure there are many things that I don’t do well, fortunately for my self esteem I’m only aware of a couple of them: chiefly, giving gifts. Especially to my wife. It’s a whole lot easier to just tell her, “I’ll take care of the kids this evening, why don’t you go out by yourself and go shopping?” She’s never disappointed to hear that and I think it helps keep her from losing her mind while she’s raising our kids. I pride myself on being able to pick up on subtle clues that she needs a night out. Like when she says, “I need to go out by myself soon.” I don’t plan to stop doing that, but let’s face it: that’s going to be a pretty lame Christmas present.

“A good gift should be something you really want, but won’t buy for yourself.”- Zach Wells

As I begin my Christmas shopping for my wife in earnest, I’ve decided to put together some of shopping principles for husbands who struggle to buy gifts for their wives.

Wives like gifts. They might tell you, “Oh don’t worry about getting me anything for Christmas.” But let’s be clear on this, no one wants to watch other people open presents and not have something to open on their own.

Clothes are dangerous. Picking out clothes for your wife could be disastrous unless you know exactly what they want and know their size. Furthermore, if you are a real red blooded man, you probably aren’t even hip to men’s fashion, much less ladies fashion.

Pajamas are safe. My wife did inform me that I was allowed to pick out some pajamas for her. Which is to say that she doesn’t mind me getting her clothes that she doesn’t have to be seen wearing.

Other articles of clothing you are allowed to get include: gloves, sunglasses, socks, house shoes, scarves, hair thingies, and earmuffs. Buy any other article of clothing at your own risk.

Candles. Unless your wife has respiratory issues, you’re probably safe to buy her a candle. Be prepared to be overwhelmed when you walk into the candle store though. It’s going to smell like a the fire department is trying to put out a spice factory fire with perfume. Instead of sticking your nose down in the jar and huffing until you get a headache, just go by the name. I recommend something with “Pie” in the name. No one really knows what a Zanzibar Clove is supposed to smell like, but everyone loves pie. I’ve been informed that those candles do not taste as good as they smell.

Pictures. If you want to really make your wife smile on Christmas morning, then make sure she unwraps a picture. It’s never been easier to print digital pictures, and if you know someone who is handy with photoshop, your wife might be getting a picture of you crossing the Delaware with Washington, or playing guitar with Elvis. If your wife doesn’t have a good sense of humor you could always just go with one of your favorite wedding photographs.

If any of you are still confused, here’s a short list of hot items that are sure to excite any wife this Christmas.

1. New House. Husbands who give their wives a new house for Christmas get a lifetime achievement award from NAOH (National Association of Husbands).

2. New Car

3. Fix that thing she has been telling you to fix.

4. Rain Head for the shower. Don’t tell her about this, just install it and leave in on the hard setting so she’s sure to notice.

5. Dishwasher. If your wife doesn’t have a dishwasher, she’ll appreciate this.

6. Spa package. I’m not sure what all goes on at the spa, but women seem to enjoy it.

7. New guitar

Since I’m running out of ideas, this is about all the advice that I can afford to give you. Like I said, I’m bad at this. I’m sure that you’ll do great this Christmas. Hopefully some wives will pitch in with some gift idea suggestions in the comments. They might be willing to help someone else’s husband, cause their husband ought to know.

The Churn

It’s just in human nature to use things against the manufacturer’s recommended use.

We had an old churn in the kitchen. I can’t remember it not being there. Our churn was never employed to make butter or anything like that, it just kept the refrigerator door closed. It’s just in human nature to use things against the manufacturer’s recommended use.

There was a big indoor yard sale at the Cullman County Ag Center a while back, and they had a churn just like the one that I remember from growing up. I say remember, but until I saw the one at the yard sale I hadn’t thought about that churn since we got a new refrigerator in 1997.

The yard sale made me think of the churn. This kind of thing happens to me all the time. Something will trigger my memory and I don’t just remember, I’m there. I think that’s why I like to go to yard sales and and thrift stores.

The churn took me back to the kitchen with it’s ancient white and black tile in a curious pattern. There was the refrigerator with it’s faux wooden inlays on the handles. Inside the fridge was the mystery Country Crock containers that Mom used for leftovers. Once she sent a bunch of them full of Mexican Cornbread (or something like that) to work with Dad so he could share with coworkers. One poor man opened his container to find actual Country Crock. I think we used Country Crock instead of butter because my grandfather had died of a heart attack.

The new refrigerator door stayed closed, so the churn was retired to the mud room. We were too emotionally attached to it to get rid of it, ugly as it was. The lid was long gone and it the finish was cracked and chipped, but because it had been with us so long it had earned a permanent spot on the register of Wells Home Furniture: we were not getting rid of it. It’s funny how you can become attached to a thing no matter how useless it has become.

When I was a teenager, we had an extended guest who broke the churn after carelessly moving it. I think my Mom cried. Because it had outlived it’s original use and it’s ad hoc use we didn’t replace it, its only function was sentimentality, a curio relic from a bygone era.

It would have been impossible to replace it anyway. It would be like replacing a family member. Shopping for a new one would have only made you sad about the one that you lost.

Look at that. I’m tearing up about a churn. I didn’t buy that churn at the yard sale. But I did just buy a new refrigerator the other day. It’s got an alarm that dings at you if the door is open.