Ides of May
Shakespearan Literature to Surfing Slang, The Path of Language Flows
I am not a fan of William Shakespeare’s writings. I have to admit, the guy added to our language through his use of the language. He’s credited with the first use of the word “gnarled” in 1604 in his play “Measure for Measure”.
“For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.”
— Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene 2
Isabella, a chaste and pious woman, is arguing with Lord Angelo in defense of her brother. He’s sentenced to death for having sex with his common-law wife and getting her pregnant. She doesn’t defend the crime, she is arguing for mercy.
Angelo has sentenced one man to death for sex outside marriage. He now presses Isabella into having sex with him on the promise of sparing her brother. Some things never change.
The Unbreakable Gnarl
Shakespeare’s use of gnarled was to invoke the image of an old, weathered and twisted tree. Hard to break into pieces. Gnarled is often used to described an older person who shows their age and the ravages of a hard life.
There is a beauty to gnarls. In nature they are usually formed when something has damaged a tree. The tree will reform around the wound in an almost protective way. The gnarls give the wound strength and character.
I have a tree in my yard that I see when I look out my kitchen window. Years ago the tree split, one part falling onto my house and the other remained standing.
I’ve watched over the years as the tree’s grown around and over the split. It’s still a gaping wound but the growth has given the remaining tree strength. read more…
Wield the Sword of Words and Its Riches Will Be Found Within Books
Shakespeare is credited with the origin of the idiom “the world is your oyster”. It first appeared in his play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. Oysters easily open with a knife to reveal the pearls found inside.
In the play, the character Pistol says, “Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.” With that, the world met the future idiom.
I was never a fan of his writings. They were written in the same language style as the King James Version of the Bible. To me, trying to read and understand either was like self-inflicted language torture.
My niece devoured Shakespeare. I often wished she’d been around when I was trudging through his works in school. She could read his works and distill them into easy to understand narrative. She cracked the Shakespeare oyster.
Books have always been my oysters. read more…