Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shakespeare and Me (I?)

So as I have alluded from time to time, (as I have alluded to?) I was an English Major at Bryn Mawr.  As was commemorated in the New York Times, which we can still believe, I think, with the great article on Marianne Moore, one of our poets, Bryn Mawr was from its inception a great refuge and training ground for bright women.  I felt myself blessed to have found it, loved everything about it from its Gothic architecture to the fact that Haverford was just down the road and full of bright, neurotic men on whom it was seemly to get crushes, to the warming truth that there were brilliant and adorable women on the other side of the roof you could sneak over late at night, climbing in their window, who would listen to your songs as you wrote them.
     So imagine my chagrin, I, who thought, as a Special Minor in Shakespeare, under the wobble-chinned Arthur Colby Sprague who had studied at Harvard with Kittredge himself, that I knew Shakespeare well.  Maybe even intimately, having spent optional, older summers at Stratford-on-Avon, listening to the whispers of ripples on that not-quite body of water, imagining I could hear the Master's voice, looking for my next great Romance after the early death of my husband, in poetry itself.  Imagine, she says again, that she went to see Twelfth Night because of the extraordinary gifts of Mark Rylance, and didn't realize that much of Shakespeare that she still regarded as Mystery, was well-known.  Maybe even authenticated.
   I had assumed that Shakespeare, like my early friend, Chaucer, had been unearthed. So, not to repeat myself though I must, imagine my chagrin on opening a volume of Shakespeare I owned but had never looked in before, relying as heavily as I relied on scholarship which I will confess has not been that heavy, on my Kittredge edition, that there were poems and encomiums and various collections of praise from Shakespeare's contemporaries on his death.  None of them was, of course, as gifted, but all of them were undeniably contemporaries, and knew very well he had been there.  And I thought he had been obscure and uncovered through scholarship, maybe even by Arthur Colby Sprague, and so, us.
   I am truly mortified.  That this comes on a day when I am also snowed in by this amazingly horrific winter, the first I have been a part of since my youth, when I returned voluntarily to this place of Real Weather, when I had an actual dog who needed to be walked, and asked, in words I think I could hear, to move back to L.A., a Yorkshire terrier who could genuinely express himself and was on Oprah and would have lived forever but she didn't show the book.  It all makes me wonder if I have done the right thing with my life.
   Clouds of snow, great swirls of white, dance unhappily in the space between my tiny metal balcony and the cluttered, ugly rooftop opposite, roped unanaesthetically and to no perceptible purpose.  To cite the snow as having an emotion is what we learned was "pathetic fallacy," attributing feelings to things which couldn't have them.  But I no longer trust anything I have learned, since I really believed I had learned a lot and now realize I understood almost nothing. 
    The good news, though, is I have nothing to fear from getting older, and possibly senile, since when I was really smart, I was actually stupid.  Sic transit Gloria, even when you weren't actually friends with her.