by Jack Kerouac
The secret of Shakespeare: two parts: one, he wrote costume poetry for the state — There’s your fortune — Had (amongst his Ovids and Montaignes) a copy of Plutarch’s Lives and a book about Kings of England, and set the scene like a
Hollywood Historical Costume Picture (think what he would have done with DeMille equipments on the Redcoats of Canada, the court of Catherine the Great, Napoleon and the whiff of grapeshot) — Made dandies, couriers, ladies, fools and generals and emperors talk with yapping mouths — a bwa a bwa a bwa BOOM! the eannon offstage. This is poetry, dramatic poetry. The vision of life, in which he was swilled like a pearl in a pigsty, a gloriously magnificent singer. “In peace,” he says to the nobles in the boxes, “there’s nothing so becomes a man/as modest stillness and humility;/When the blast of war blows in our ears,/then imitate the action of the tiger.” — This is like Krishna’s advice to the melancholy prince in Bhagavad-Gita. It’s given by King Henry V with scaling-ladder in hand, at Walls of Harfleur Act Ill Sc I, and for reason “. .you noblest English/Whose blood is fet from fathers of warproof!” — Then our Immortal Bard played the Gallery with Nym — And played a form of Tao (Chinese No-Action) with “Boy”:
BOY: — Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale and safety.
Shakespeare’s real Gimmick Poetry is in Nym. Boy, Ariel, Clown, Pistol, Fool, the Gravedigger etc. — then, to unfold the story, his monologues and soliloquies unfold the plain explana-tion concerning the backgrounds of the play. It’s just a shining technique in the darkness, and goes out only when the stars go out. Face, if you will, Gentlemen, the stars never mind.
Part two, the singing of “mellifluous and honey tongued Shakespeare”: — A teenage boy raped under an Avon apple tree by an older woman, married and then cuckolded via his older brother Edmund Shakespeare the Villain, on the road to London not roomed in the inn, in London holding the reins Of the horses outside the theater, is asked “Hey Willie can you come in here and carry a spear?” and later “Will, can you add some lines to that last act?” and finally “Ah Sweet Will, how can you ever top that?”
He stands by himself alone in Heaven as the greatest writer in any language in any country anytime in the history of the world: — “Mankind and this world have never been so sharply sifted or so sternly consoled, since Lucretius, as in Shakespeare’s tragedies” (Oliver Elton). — Compared to him Homer groaned, Dante too — Cervantes could not combine drama and poetry in concentrated spates individualized like Othello or Hamlet or King Henry V breaking your heart year after year — Tolstoy threw a fit — Goethe marveled and bit his lip — Nietzsche was driven wroth — Dostoevsky sighed— Blake and Smart smiled — The Japanese and Chinese poets would have covered their ears and run wondering from London — Burns quivered — Pound fell into unreasoning jealousy based on Provencal lilts — Donne and Vaughan and Herbert grinned — Chaucer sat up in his grave and glanced curiously that away — Balzac irritably sharpened his pen quill and tried again and marked his master — Villon stared inspired into the future — Moliere shrugged and concentrat-ed on mere mores — Dickens exulted — Carlyle glared furi-ously into the dark looking for such light — Masey, Dan Michel and Spenser mourned in their cloaks — Modern idiots like Apollinaire, Mayakovsky and Artaud simply spat at the stars in defiance of him — Johnson nodded — Pope bowed — Melville smiled over the bow — Whitman accept-ed — Emily Dickinson saying about flowers
Spiciest at fading, indicate
a habit Of a laureate
understood, and James Joyce leered to comprehend.
Because (and here I want to present a new theory that really should be looked into by proper technicians of Shakespeare Research), when Shakespeare says “Slaves as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the glutton’s dog licked his sores,” or “Greasy Joan doth keel the pot, and birds sit brooding in the snow” (combining the thought as well as the SOUND of the ellipse of a Japanese haiku) or those awful lines conspired around “Tarquin’s ravishing strides,” or “and pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy,” I always wonder “Where did he get that rhythmic sound?” and always think “That’s what I like about Shakespeare, where he Raves in the great world night like the wild wind through an old Cathedral” (the training of that). Condell and Heminge reported that his handwritten manuscripts were hardly blotted, if at all, as he apparently flowed in his writing and wrote in an inspired hurry what he immediately heard sound-wise while his steeltrap brain kept shutting down on the exigencies of plot and character in that sea of ravening English that came out of him. And my hunch is that in spite of the many ponderous double entendres that take some thinking, he did it all more out of intuition, than out of deliberateness and the craftiness Of that. My theory is that Joyce fully understood this, the first man to do so since 1615 with the possible exception of Laurence Sterne: — who refused to be austere and severe to cover up the glory of Shakespeare. The prose of Shakespeare, “the most natural and noble of his age,” as it appears in the plays, as apart from the verse, did not persist in English literature but languished with its “tendons and sinews of the language” under the avalanche of the “leisurely and amorous romance” Of “French influence and example” that became the rage at the time, and was followed by big heavy laborings designed to vigorously counteract so-called Elizabethan “Euphuism,” thus alack, the crasser part of English became known as “English prose,” on through Johnson, the mathematical cant-ing absurdities that followed, and the prose of the London (and New York) limes. Today they find cotton to stuff up one meager idea inside a huge pillow of a paragraph. This dullard’s guile is known as “bombast,” derived from the Middle French bombace, meaning cotton, the stuffing and padding of speech with highsounding words all inflated and fustian and turgid, the long arid clauses grimacing with supe-riority the useless adverbs deadening satiated verbs (“inerad-icably misinformed” or something) the “latters” and “form-ers” and “a prioris” and “per ses” and “presentlys” and “con-sequentlys” all told and only for the sake of using cuty-dried phrases a thousand times over without any definite meaning, like in politicians’ windbag talk, in a word, CANT. The rich natural hoarse singing, the ringing complaynt of the Bard and the very art of it was forgotten for favor of the pursy Drab, and the Pundit, and the very Grammarian.
James Joyce over 300 years later attempted to become “Shakespeare in a Dream” and succeeded. Finnegans Wake is pure raving Shakespeare below, beneath, all over “I no sooner seen a ghist of his frighteousness than I was bibbering with vear a few verset off fooling for fiorg for my fifth foot” — and this which is only the end of a long rant-sentence is pure Shakespeare Sound and Rhythm but with Irish long-winded specialties as dark as the peat in Yeats. “THERES SCARES KNUD IN THIS GNARLD WARLD A FULLY SO SVEND AS DILATES FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF OUR FOERSES OF NATURE BY YOUR VERY
AMPLE SOLVENT OF REFRACTING UPON ME LIKE IS BOESEN FIENND” — Your Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and even your antique Stormonth Dictionary won’t help you here: “Pappaist! Gambanman! Take the cawraidd’s blow! Yia! Your partridge’s last.”— Smash! Crash! — Yah! — Cannon offstage, BOOM! — “and” (Shakespeare) “such as indeed were never soldiers, but dis-carded unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger broth-ers, revolted tapsters and ostlers trade-fallen, the cankers of a calm world and a long peace — ” (which passage proves
Shakespeare heard sound first then the words were there in his QUICK HEAD). “Well/To the end of fray and the beginning of a feast/ Fits a dull fighter and a keen guest” he adds— and everybody knows how folk sayings always seem to pop out of tongue-sounds instead of out of “thinks,” like in “It’s about to clabber up and rain all over” or, “Can’t pour piss out of a boot,” or even the old Medieval Quebecois saying, “Ya pus Plus faim qu’la mer a soif. ‘
For softer sounds, the divine punner listened to softer rains in his brain: Duke of Burgundy speaking about France:—“. . .her fallow leas/ The darnel, hemlock and rank fumitory/ Doth root upon, while that the coulter rusts/ That should deracinate such savagery:/The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth/ the freckled cowslip. . .” Or Hamlet on his father’s love of the Queen: ” . .so loving to my
mother/ That he might not beteem the winds Of heaven/ Visit her face too roughly” — (In a sonnet, there “Since first your eye I eyed”) — and in Lear the daughter mourns like a dove: —
.. to watch —poor
perdu ! —
With this thin helm?
“Every cove to his gentry mort,” Shakespeare might have added, and it was Joyce who wrote that last line, in Ulysses, mindful of how poetry is done by mouthings and brainwaves and wizardries of inwit and not necessarily always by slow measured inductive introspections sunk in anguished consultation about should and shouldnots.
But Joyce was never able to combine drama with such poetry, and treacherous plots with sighs like that, and cries, and be, ampngst all writers of all time, Divinest Thaumaturgist, Forever.