Thursday, March 13, 2008

D.H. Lawrence "When I Read Shakespeare"

Lawrence, D.H. "When I Read Shakespeare."The Norton Introduction to Poetry. J. Paul Hunter, Alison Booth, and Kelly J. Mays. 9th edition. New York: Norton, 2007. 403.

And Macbeth and his Lady, who should have been choring,
such suburban ambition, so messily goring
old Duncan with daggers!

How boring, how small Shakespeare's people are!
Yet the language so lovely! like the dyes from gas-tar. (lines 10-15)

D.H. Lawrence's "When I Read Shakespeare" acts as a critique of the most renown writer of all time. The speaker's diction and rhyme suggests that he/she is mocking the very things that makes Shakespeare's works famous.

The speaker attempts to describe Shakespeare's characters through utilizing words such as "choring" and "boring." These words are considered informal vernacular and drastically differ from Shakespeare's ornate diction. By discounting the importance of language, the speaker shows how trivial the characters truly are. Without the fluency and beauty of diction, Shakespeare's Macbeth is merely and blatantly put a "messy" murderer.

The repetition of the "ring" sound also adds to the unremarkable quality of the characters. Suggesting that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth "should have been choring," implies that there is a certain admirable trait to carrying out routines (but Shakespeare routine has become creating the familiar character). The routines of these characters has become the task of murder and therefore, is another boring and predictable trait of a Shakespearean character. The rhyming scheme itself begins to become redundant and boring, rhyming perfectly with no distinctions until reaching the end of the sonnet. In the rhyming of "daggers" and "are" there is a partial rhyme, suggesting that perhaps the characters are not quite as boring as the reader had begun to think. The importance lies on the "daggers" though, not on the characters themselves, showing that weapons used have more substance than people created. In the last stanza, the rhyme becomes perfect again, reaffirming the redundancy.

The last stanza states that language is lovely "like the dyes from gas-tar." Immediately, the reader can understand that the colors of gas-tar are not lovely things, but dark and dirty. Gas-tar is a not formally accepted term and its very comparison to Shakespeare's language is contradictory to the rhetoric that Shakespeare employed. The final line, for this very reason, reflects on the striking question of "Why is Shakespeare's work so significant if merely redundant in character styling and language?"


Melissa Kerrigan said...

I like youre interpretation of this work. It does seem like the speaker is mocking the style of writing that has made Shakespeare the icon he is today. Even though it is almost an insult, it is a compliment as well. The fact that the only way to mock Shakespeare is by copying him, is one of the highest forms of complimenting. All in all, I like this piece of literature.

woodstl said...

Me too.

PBHURT said...

Lawrence might not be just mocking Shakespeare, but mocking certain individuals who attach labels such as "boring" and "trivial" to the work of someone considered to be the greatest writer in the history of the English language.