The Merchant of Venice

What if Shakespeare…were a FRAUD?

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[The Tudors’ secret police court, the Star Chamber. Enter JUDGE, PROSECUTOR, and QUEEN ELiZABETH I; SHAKESPEARE sits in chains in the centre of the room.]

Judge:
Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
Or be accused of folly. (1)

Shakespeare:
An’t shall please your majesty, I never said nor
thought any such matter: God is my witness, I am
falsely accused by the villain. (2)

Queen:
Ah, what’s more dangerous than this fond affiance!
Seems he a dove? his feathers are but borrowed,
For he’s disposed as the hateful raven:
Is he a lamb? his skin is surely lent him,
For he’s inclined as is the ravenous wolf.
Who cannot steal a shape that means deceit?
Take heed, my lord; the welfare of us all
Hangs on the cutting short that fraudful man. (3)

Shakespeare:
Madam, I was thinking with what manners I might
safely be admitted. (4)

Prosecutor:
I will not excuse you; you shall not be excus’d;
shall not be admitted; there is no excuse shall serve; you
not be excus’d. (5)

Shakespeare
Then, I confess,
Here on my knee, before high heaven and you, (6)
I am alone the villain of the earth,
And feel I am so most. (7)
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever, (8)
The fraud of England, not the force of France,
Hath now entrapp’d the noble-minded[.] (9)
Shame hath a bastard fame, well managed;
Ill deeds are doubled with an evil word. (10)
It shall be fickle, false and full of fraud, (11)
Not to relent is beastly, savage, devilish. (12)
Thus do I ever make my fool my purse: (13)
And that the Earl of Surrey, with the rod. (14)
I told him what I thought, and told no more
Than what he found himself was apt and true. (15)

Judge:
He said the truth: and what said Surrey then? (16)

Shakespeare:
To tell you true, I counterfeit him. (17)

Queen:
Thou liest:
Within these forty hours Surrey durst better
Have burnt that tongue than said so. (18)

Shakespeare:
Alas!
I am as true as truth’s simplicity
And simpler than the infancy of truth. (19)
The base
Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards! (20)

Judge:
Will Fortune never come with both hands full,
But write her fair words still in foulest letters? (21)
Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough
To mask thy monstrous visage? (22)

Shakespeare:
Demand me nothing: what you know, you know:
From this time forth I never will speak word. (23)

Queen:
What, will you tear
Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
Fie, fie! you counterfeit, you puppet, you! (24)

Shakespeare:
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more. (25)

Queen:
Lo, here, the hopeless merchant of this loss,
With head declined, and voice damm’d up with woe, (26)
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck’d the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh; (27)
Foul devil, for God’s sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell; (28)
Take hence this jack, and whip him. (29)
Thou basest thing, avoid! hence, from my sight!
If after this command thou fraught the court
With thy unworthiness, thou diest: away!
Thou’rt poison to my blood. (30)

Shakespeare:
All my merry jigs are quite forgot,
All my lady’s love is lost, God wot:
Where her faith was firmly fix’d in love,
There a nay is placed without remove. (31)

The rest is silence. (32)

—————————————————————————-

All words Shakespeare’s own, assembled by David Windrim.

Original Quotations:
(1) Menenius Agrippa, Coriolanus
(2) Thomas Horner, Henry VI Part 3
(3) Queen Margaret, Henry VI Part 3
(4) Lafeu, All’s Well That Ends Well
(5) Robert Shallow, Henry IV Part 2
(6) Domitius Enobarus, Antony and Cleopatra
(7) Helena, All’s Well That Ends Well
(8) Balthasar, Much Ado About Nothing
(9) Sir William Lucy, Henry VI, Part 1
(10) Luciana, The Comedy of Errors
(11) Venus and Adonis
(12) Duke of Clarence, Richard III
(13) Iago, Othello
(14) First Gentleman, Henry VIII
(15) Iago, Othello
(16) Richard III, Richard III
(17) Antonio, The Merchant Of Venice
(18) Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII
(19) Troilus, Troilus and Cressida
(20) Edmund, King Lear
(21) Henry IV, Henry IV Part 2
(22) Brutus, Julius Caesar
(23) Iago, Othello
(24) Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(25) Aaron, Titus Andronicus
(26) The Rape of Lucrece
(27) Ophelia, Hamlet
(28) Lady Anne, Richard III
(29) Antony, Antony and Cleopatra.
(30) Cymbeline, Cymbeline
(31) The Passionate Pilgrim

(32) Hamlet, Hamlet

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What if Shakespeare…were an ARTIST?

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Dost thou love pictures? We will fetch thee straight Adonis painted by a running brook, and Cytherea all in sedges hid (1). A thousand moral paintings I can show that shall demonstrate these quick blows of Fortune’s more pregnantly than words (2).

O proper stuff! This is the very painting of your fear (3). A Death’s-head or a memento mori (4). Have I frightened thee (5)?

What’s here? the portrait of (6) a virtuous gentlewoman, mild and beautiful (7). Here in her hairs the painter plays the spider and hath woven a golden mesh to entrap the hearts of me (8). Good my lord, forbear: The ruddiness upon her lip is wet; You’ll mar it if you kiss it, stain your own with oily painting (9).

For your many courtesies I thank you: I must discontinue your company (10). Inspiration of celestial grace (11) has struck (12); I wish (13) to create (14).

1)    The  Taming of the Shrew, Prologue, 193-6

2)     Timon of Athens, I.i, 110-12

3)     Macbeth, III.iv, 1347-8

4)     Henry IV, Part II, III.iii, 2036

5)     Henry IV, Part II, III,I, 1710

6)     The Merchant of Venice, II.ix, 1184

7)     The Two Gentlemen of Verona, IV.iv, 221

8)     The Merchant of Venice, III.ii, 1489-1492

9)     The Winter’s Tale, V.iii, 3384-7

10)  Much Ado About Nothing, V.i, 2262-3

11)  Henry VI, Part I, V.iv, 2711

12)  Henry V, IV.viii, 2735

13)  All’s Well That Ends Well, I.i, 180

14)  Henry VI, Part III, IV.iii, 2207

Shakespeare re-arranged by Lisa

Image: ClipArt ETC – Kantner Book of Objects 114

What if Shakespeare… ran a HALLOWEEN SHOP?


Something wicked this way comes…

Shakes-store

“Come hither, come, come, come!” [1] “Be truly welcome hither” [2]. “Come, go in: / I’ll show thee some attires” [3]. “What is it you will see?” [4] “Be what thou wilt” [5]. “A Persian Prince” [6] “say you sir?” [7] “I like that well” [8].

“This new and gorgeous garment” [9] “fits the purpose passing well” [10]. “Quick, quick! we’ll come dress you straight: put / On the gown the while” [11].  “I do not like the fashion of your garments. / You’ll say they are Persian attire; but / Let them be chang’d” [12].

“Wouldst thou be” [13] “a gallant knight” [14], “attired like a warrior?” [15] “I’ll give thee, friend, / An armour all of gold” [16]. “It well befits you” [17]. “How like you this?” [18] “Pray you, look not sad” [19], “thou shalt have my best gown” [20].

(to attendant) “Come hither, sirrah” [21], “go fetch / My best attires” [22].

“Well, what would you say” [23] “the queen of all the fairies, / Finely attired in a robe of white” [24]. “I pray you, bear with me” [25]. “Fully satisfied” [26] “will I see thee by and by” [27].

(Aside) “Alack, alack, alack!” [28] “What should I do with him?” [29]

(to attendant) “Sirrah, a word with you” [30]. “Let’s go dress him / Like the witch of Brentford” [31].

“Good sir, draw near to me” [32]. “Behold and see” [33] “a wretched creature” [34], “spotted, detested and abominable” [35]. “So wither’d and so wild in their attire / That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth” [36]. “What say you?” [37] “Is this the guise?” [38]

“Ay, those attires are best” [39]. “I shall give thee” [40] “a bloody mask” [41] “with great ragg’d horns” [42]. “Pray you, come near” [43], “I’ll tell you true” [44], “I am afraid, sir” [45], “to look upon the hideous” [46], “monstrous form” [47] “I see before me” [48].  “I pray thee, mark me” [49] – “with you in this garb” [50] “thou art assured” [51] “to fright the world” [52]. “And yet, I know thou wilt” [53] “win the prize” [54], “for thou look’st” [55] “second to none” [56].

Shakespeare re-arranged by Linda Nicoll

1. Anthony and Cleopatra [V. ii. 3441]
2. As You Like It [II. vii. 1096]
3. Much Ado About Nothing [III. i. 1179-80]
4. Hamlet [V. ii. 4027]
5. Henry VI. P I [V. iii. 2503]
6. The Merchant of Venice [II. i. 540
7. Cymbeline [IV. ii. 2794]
8. Pericles [II. v. 32]
9. Henry IV. P II [V. ii. 3292]
10. Titus Andronicus [II. iii. 819]
11. Merry Wives of Windsor [IV. ii. 2040-41]
12. King Lear [III. vi. 80-82]
13. Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. xiv. 3067]
14. Henry IV. P I [V. iii. 2901]
15. Cymbeline [V. iv. 3168]
16. Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. viii. 2816-17]
17. Henry IV. P II [III. ii. 1934]
18. As You Like It [III. ii. 1133]
19. Anthony and Cleopatra [III. ii. 2128]
20. Pericles [II. i. 741]
21. Measure for Measure [IV. ii. 1886]
22. Anthony and Cleopatra [V. ii. 3673-74]
23. All’s Well That End Well [II. v. 1348]
24. Merry Wives of Windsor [IV. iv. 2269-70]
25. As You Like It [II. iv. 729-30]
26. Henry VIII [II. iv. 1518]
27. Henry IV. P I [V. iv. 3073]
28. A Midsummer Night’s Dream [V. i. 2015]
29. Much Ado About Nothing [II. i. 426]
30. Macbeth [III. i. 1051]
31. Merry Wives of Windsor [IV. ii. 2055-56]
32. Comedy of Errors [V. i. 1436]
33. Anthony and Cleopatra [I. i. 16]
34. Julius Caesar [I. ii. 207]
35. Titus Andronicus [II. iii. 810]
36. Macbeth [I. iii. 140-41]
37. Pericles [II. i. 595]
38. Henry VI. P II [I. iii. 433]
39. Romeo and Juliet [IV. iii. 2549]
40. Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. xii. 2940]
41. Henry IV. P I [III. ii. 1960]
42. Merry Wives of Windsor [IV. iv. 2226]
43. Merry Wives of Windsor [III. iii. 1524]
44. Timon of Athens [I. ii. 582]
45. Taming of the Shrew [V. ii. 2589]
46. Henry IV. P II [II. iii. 1189]
47. Henry IV. P II [IV. ii. 2476]
48. Macbeth [II. i. 611]
49. The Tempest [I. ii. 189]
50. Hamlet [II. ii. 1456]
51. Sonnet 92 [2]
52. Henry VI. P II [III. ii. 1731]
53. Cymbeline [V. v. 3488]
54. Taming of the Shrew [II. i. 1195]
55. Pericles [V. i. 2323]
56. Comedy of Errors [V. i. 1430]

Shakespeare image: http://www.clipartmojo.com/shakespeare.html
Halloween image:  http://www.gograph.com/stock-illustration/tomb.html

Wordy Wednesday: “Bated Breath”

Bet you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this week’s Wordy Wednesday! But what does that mean, exactly?

The earliest evidence of the phrase “bated breath” comes from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:

Shylock:

What should I say to you? Should I not say

‘Hath a dog money? is it possible

A cur can lend three thousand ducats?’ Or

Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key,

With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;

‘Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;

You spurn’d me such a day; another time

You call’d me dog; and for these courtesies

I’ll lend you thus much moneys’?

Despite common confusion, bated breath has nothing to do with bait; “bated” is actually a contraction of “abated”, which means lessened or subdued. So “bated breath” is breathing that is reduced or stopped (because of a strong emotion). When you are “waiting with bated breath”, you are waiting anxiously or eagerly for something.

Is there something you’re waiting for with bated breath? Let us know in the comments!

– Written by Lisa

Sources

“With Bated Breath.” Wiktionary. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Oct.

2012. <http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/with_bated_breath&gt;.

“Bated.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

<http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/bated&gt;.

Martin, Gary. “Bated Breath.” The Phrase Finder. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.

<http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bated-breath.html&gt;.

Quinion, Michael. “Bated Breath.” World Wide Words. 21 June 2003. Web. 12 Oct.

2012. <http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bai1.htm&gt;.

What if Shakespeare…were a SPORTS COMMENTATOR?

 

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A happy evening [1] and ye’re welcome all [2]. We first address toward you [3] that stay’d at home [4], and they that watch [5] from yonder [6] elsewhere / from me far off [7], a hundred thousand welcomes [8]. This great sport [9] is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage [10]. And mark thee [11] well worth watching [12].

And all that are assembled in this place [13] that wait [14] with bated breath [15], lend me your ears [16]. Hark! hark! what shout is that [17] among the crowd? [18] And, hark! they shout for joy [19]. Thus we are agreed [20] what sport tonight [21] you shall see [22].

Be the players ready? [23] Ajax is ready [24] And look you [25] Percy is already in the field [26]. With roaring voices [27] the shouting plebeians [28] bid the players make haste [29]. Hark, they roar! [30] loud shouts and salutations from their mouths [31]. Alas, what joy! [32] There are the players [33]. Aeneas is a-field [34.] At last, though long [35] now I see [36] Anthony is come into the field [37]. Then shall we have a match [38].

Ajax goes up and down the field [39]. On there, pass along! [40] He scores, he scores [41] This cheers my heart [42]. He knows the game [43] excellent well [44]. Hark, the game is roused! [45] Shouts and claps out-voice the deep mouth’d sea [46].

And then begin again and stop again [47]. The match [48] is tied [49]. Methought that Gloucester stumbled [50]. They stumble that run fast [51]. Let’s see the penalty, [52] who takes it? [53] The thrice-victorious Lord of Falconbridge [54]. No no, it cannot be! [55] he hath miss’d [56]. The people in the street cry [57] you base football player [58].

And then the people fell a-shouting [59]. But where’s the great Alcides of the field, / Valiant Lord Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury [61]. He has been yonder [61] on the bench [62]. And in all this time [63] why he, of all the rest, hath never moved [64]. With open outcry [65] the crowd [66] call him forth [67], a most gallant fellow [68] to win this easy match [69]. Here he comes [70] once more unto the breach [71]. Hark! do you not hear the / people cry [72] roaring louder than / the sea or weather [73].

It grows very late [74], the sport is at the best [75] when none can call [76] – who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out [77]. My heart leaps [78] breathless and faint [79], I cannot bring / my tongue to such a pace [80]. But look thee here [81] brave Talbot [82] how he outruns the wind and with what care / he cranks and crosses with a thousand doubles [83.]

The game is up! [84] Victorious Talbot [85] now hath won the day [86]. Didst thou not hear their shouts? [87] The ways of glory [88] would scarce make that be believed [89]. Renowned Talbot [90] he hath done well in people’s eyes, / hearing applause and universal shout, / giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt / whether these pearls of praise be his or no [91].

The games are done [92] This had been cheerful after victory [93]. O my soul’s joy! [94] I saw not better sport these seven years’ day [95]. A thousand thanks and [96] fare thee well [97]. In celebration of this day [98] applause and loving shout [99] shall be heard [100] through the streets [101]. Why, then, good night indeed [102].

Shakespeare – re-arranged by Linda Nicoll

1.        Two Gentlemen of Verona [V. i. 2056]

2.       Coriolanus [II. i. 1113]

3.       King Lear [I. i. 204]

4.       Pericles [II. iv. 553]

5.       Rape of Lucrece [1626]

6.       Henry VI P I [III. ii. 1466]

7.       Sonnet 61 [13-14]

8.       Coriolanus [II, i. 1114]

9.       Henry VIII [I. i. 88]

10.     Romeo and Juliet [Prologue 1, 12]

11.     Henry IV P I [II. iv. 1196]

12.     Cymbeline [II. iv. 1257]

13.     The Comedy of Errors [V. i. 1841]

14.     Two Gentlemen of Verona [IV. ii. 1770]

15.     The Merchant of Venice [I. iii. 451]

16.     Julius Caesar [III. Ii. 1617]

17.     Troilus and Cressida [V. ix. 3619]

18.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2481]

19.     Julius Caesar [V. iii. 2528]

20.     Anthony and Cleopatra II. vi. 1283

21.     Anthony and Cleopatra [I. ii. 57]

22.     All’s Well That Ends Well [III. Vi. 1824]

23.     Hamlet III. [I. i. 1986-87]

24.     Troilus and Cressida [III. iii. 1901]

25.     All’s Well That Ends Well [V. iii. 3032]

26.     Henry IV PI [IV. ii. 2443-44]

27.     King Lear [II. iii. 1265]

28.     Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. xii. 2942]

29.     Hamlet [III. ii. 1925]

30.     The Tempest [IV. i. 2008]

31.     Henry IV P I [III. ii. 1876]

32.     Henry VI P I [IV. iii. 2967]

33.     Hamlet [II. ii. 1452]

34.     Troilus and Cressida [V. iii. 3354]

35.     Taming of the Shrew [V. ii. 2489]

36.     All’s Well That Ends Well [I. iii. 492]

37.     Anthony and Cleopatra [IV. vi. 2713]

38.     All’s Well That Ends Well [V. iii. 2708]

39.     Troilus and Cressida [[III. iii. 2129]

40.     Anthony and Cleopatra [III. i. 1589]

41.     All’s Well That Ends Well [IV. iii. 2307]

42.     Henry VI P III [V. iv. 2870]

43.     Henry VI P III [III. ii. 1484]

44.     Hamlet [II. ii. 1279]

45.     Cymbeline [III. iii 1708]

46.     Henry V [V. Chorus, 2849]

47.     Richard III [III. v 2071]

48.     The Comedy of Errors [III. ii. 854]

49.     Sonnet 137 [8]

50.     Richard III [I. iv. 851]

51.     Romeo and Juliet [II. iii. 156]

52.     Love’s Labour’s Lost I. i. 126]

53.     Coriolanus [IV. vii. 3252]

54.     Henry VI P I [IV. vii. 2324]

55.     All’s Well That Ends Well [II. i. 601]

56.     Cymbeline [I. i. 20]

57.     Romeo and Juliet [V. iii. 3164]

58.     King Lear [I. iv. 615]

59.     Julius Caesar [I. ii. 315]

60.     Henry VI P I [IV. vii. 2317-18]

61.     Twelfth Night [II. v. 1043-44]

62.     Timon of Athens [IV. iii. 1702]

63.     As You Like It [IV. i.1877]

64.     Two Gentlemen of Verona [I. ii. 177]

65.     Romeo and Juliet [V. iii. 3166]

66.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2481]

67.     Henry IV P I [V. ii. 1517]

68.     All’s Well That Ends Well [III. v. 1701]

69.     King John [III. I 1264]

70.     Coriolanus [II. iii. 1462]

71.     Henry V [III. i. 1092]

72.     Troilus and Cressida [I. ii. 372-73]

73.     The Winter’s Tale [III. iii 1596-97]

74.     Romeo and Juliet [III. iii. 2045]

75.     Romeo and Juliet [I. v. 748]

76.     Macbeth [V. i. 2162]

77.     King Lear [V. iii. 3138]

78.     Pericles [V. iii. 2573]

79.     Henry IV P I [I. iii. 357]

80.     Coriolanus [II. iii. 1476-77]

81.     The Winter’s Tale [III. iii. 1606]

82.     Henry VI P I [II. i. 694-95]

83.     Venus and Adonis [703-4]

84.     Cymbeline [III. iii 1708]

85.     Henry VI P I [II. iii. 900]

86.     Henry VI P III [IV. iv. 2257]

87.     Julius Caesar [V. iii. 2594]

88.     Henry VIII [III. ii. 2349]

89.     All’s Well That Ends Well [IV. i. 1959]

90.     Henry VI P I [IV. iii. 2039]

91.     The Merchant of Venice [III. ii. 1512-15]

92.     Julius Caesar [I. ii. 269]

93.     Henry IV P II [IV. ii. 2535]

94.     Othello [II. i. 975]

95.     Henry VI P II [II. i. 728]

96.     Henry V [IV. iv. 2429]

97.     All’s Well That Ends Well [II. i. 745]

98.     Henry VIII [IV. i. 2389]

99.     Richard III [III. vii. 2240]

100.   King John [I. i. 28]

101.   Anthony and Cleopatra [I. i. 64]

102.   Anthony and Cleopatra [III. x. 2099]

What if Shakespeare…were an INVESTMENT BANKER?

(On the brink of the current financial crisis) 

There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest, / For I did dream of money-bags to-night (1).  I greatly fear my money is not safe (2).  Say ‘tis not so (3).

I pray you sir! (4). I am not in a sportive humour now: / Tell me, and dally not, where is the money? (5). I beseech thee (6), answer me / In what safe place have you bestow’d my money? (7).

There is a written scroll! I’ll read the writing (8).  Mine eyes deceive me (9) It is not so; for how can this be true (10).  This paper has undone me: ‘tis the account / Of all that world of wealth I have drawn together (11).

‘Tis gone, ‘tis gone, ‘tis gone (12), melted into air, into thin air (13).

Alack the day! (14). Time is a very bankrupt, and owes more than he’s worth to season (15).

What hath been cannot be (16). You can fool no more money out of me (17). From this day forth (18) – Neither a borrower nor a lender be (19).

1          The Merchant of Venice [II. v. 865-66]

2          The Comedy of Errors [I. ii 270]

3          Anthony and Cleopatra [II. v. 1138]

4          All’s Well That Ends Well [II. ii. 863]

5          The Comedy of Errors [I.ii.58-59]

6          Anthony and Cleopatra [I. ii. 139]

7          The Comedy of Errors [I.ii.77-78]

8          The Merchant of Venice [II. vii. 1052]

9          The Comedy of Errors [V. i. 1773]

10        Love’s Labour’s Lost [V. ii. 2349]

11        Henry VIII [III. ii. 95-96]

12        Romeo and Juliet [I. v. 642]

13        The Tempest [IV. i. 81]

14        Romeo and Juliet [III. ii. 1760]

15        The Comedy of Errors [IV.ii.58]

16        All’s Well That Ends Well [I. i. 28]

17        Twelfth Night [IV. i. 2227]

18        Julius Caesar [IV. iii. 2030]

19        Hamlet [III. ii. 2091]

Shakespeare re-arranged by Linda Nicoll

What if Shakespeare…were a TEACHER?

What would Shakespeare’s classroom have been like? Your biggest disappointment might have been that most of this master of all English’s lessons would not have been in English at all. However much Shakespeare’s characters might beg to hear or speak “no Latin[, as] a strange tongue makes [a] cause more strange, suspicious” to the hearer (1), in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan reality the Church, State, and Universities judged your education and intellectual worth by your ability to read, write, and quote from Latin. Rome was, after all, the “most high and palmy state” (2) on which English society based its ideals of honor and virtue; English monarchs including the Tudors (and thus Elizabeth) traced their ancestors – by way of King Arthur – to Brutus, a direct descendant of Aeneas, “one of the flowers of Troy” (3), who founded Rome after that city’s fall.

Whatever the language, however, Shakespeare would have been able to teach most any subject – as the times demanded. Elizabethan schools had an intense curriculum, “the sweets of sweet philosophy” (4) at the time including studies of Scripture and religion, rhetoric, mathematics, music, composition, elocution, and the histories of Britain, Europe and the ancient world.  As if that wasn’t enough, school was taught six and a half days a week, with less than two months off each year, going from six or seven in the morning until right before dusk – no wonder that, in Shakespeare’s description of when “a school breaks up,” each student “hurries toward his home and sporting-place” (5) for the only free time he has in his day. I say ‘he’ because almost all such students were boys, of course – women were, at the time, preferably kept as a “poor unlearned virgin […] embowell’d of [schools’] doctrine” (6) or “an unlesson’d girl, unschool’d, unpractised” in the ways of the world but “not bred so dull but she can learn” (7) what she needs to entertain and please a husband.

To teach, Shakespeare would have had to constantly read and study, to become, “neglecting all worldly ends, all dedicated to closeness and the bettering of [his] mind” (8). To effectively guide his pupils, his learning and love of knowledge would have, together, to “beget a generation of still-breeding thoughts, and these same thoughts people this little world” within the schoolhouse (9). Shakespeare was well aware that a conscientious “schoolmaster made [students] more profit than other princesses can that have more time for vainer hours and tutors not so careful” (10). No wasting time for him, but activity and energy towards the learning that had elevated him from glovemaker’s son to renowned playwright – or, in this thought experiment, teacher. Shakespeare would hate when “poor fools believe false teachers” (11) and love to observe that a “gentleman is learn’d, and a most rare speaker[:] his training such, that he may furnish and instruct great teachers, and never seek for aid out of himself” (12). All Shakespeare’s plays reward self-reliance and the personal pursuit of excellence, and his students would have benefited from that attention.

Still, if the little people in his classroom misbehaved, they would have to watch out, as Shakespeare thought that “to teach a teacher ill beseemeth” (13). Problem students would have learned that they were dealing with no “rare parrot-teacher” (14) trying only to have them squawk out passages after him. William would never have been one to spare the rod, even if a pupil “had rather see the swords, and hear a drum, than look upon his school-master” (15). Shakespeare, in his plays, staunchly supported just punishment, and  thought that keeping discipline required one to “show great mercy […] after the
taste of much correction” (16).

Perhaps some foolhardy students would have tried to declare themselves “no breeching scholar in the schools,” that they’d “not be tied to hours nor ‘pointed times, but learn [their] lessons as [they] please [themselves]” (17). Shakespeare would merely reflect on the price paid in his day by he without education: “he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink: his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts” (18). He would raise his pupils as best he could towards “Study[, which] is like the heaven’s glorious
sun that will not be deep-searched with saucy looks” (19) and so improve their lot in life by giving them real goals to strive for without easy shortcuts.

This hard work would not, however, have made Shakespeare arrogant or proud; he would acknowledge that in the general estimation, teachers were “so poor a pinion off [power’s] wing” (20) as to be non-entities outside the classroom. Furthermore, despite his own encyclopedic knowledge, Shakespeare was never entirely comfortable with purely intellectual academics; you can sense that for him, they “jes[t] at scars that never felt a wound” (21). Never one to go against the will of the natural order, he would have acknowledged that “Nature teaches beasts to know their friends” (22) without any teacher’s help. He would have further realized that reading and writing without any practical purpose was “but an adjunct to oneself” (23), needing direction or motivation from some other part of one’s life that had more to do with the broader world outside – politics, say, or employment. Or perhaps even (as in many of his plays featuring young scholars) love.

Shakespeare would have acknowledged that education could in some cases even harm students by boring or overindulging them – any student could become “a blunt fellow”, even one that was “quick mettle when he went to school” (24) before being bored stiff by unsuitable lessons. Furthermore, in almost all of Shakespeare’s works, inherent, instinctive knowledge is both valuable and beyond teaching. His plays revolve around the idea that speech and consideration must, at times, give way to activity and daring, and that for “wilful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters” (25) in facing life’s challenges. He believed that the youths of his time, in particular, often held “a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, an understanding simple and unschooled” (26) and a personality “never school’d and yet learned” (27). In Shakespeare’s view, these qualities – which existed before one had “corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school” (28) – allowed the aggressive and, admittedly, often foolhardy juveniles to use their energy and impetuosity to overcome older adversaries’ advantages of age and experience and power. There would have been no fears that Shakespeare would refuse to countenance the beautiful world outside; his pupils would have needed to stay grounded, which he would have known, aware that the broader human context made up “the glass, the school, the book, where subjects’ eyes do learn, do read, do look” (29) for the answers no textbook can entirely provide.

Ultimately, Shakespeare the teacher might have summed up his project as does the benevolent Archbishop Cranmer in Shakespeare the playwright’s Henry VI, Part II:
My good lords, hitherto, in all the progress
Both of my life and office, I have labour’d,
And with no little study, that my teaching
And the strong course of my authority
Might go one way, and safely; and the end
Was ever, to do well. (30)

No teacher, in Shakespeare’s day or afterwards, through all the advances that bring us to appreciating his work from so far after his death, could reasonably ask for more.

Quotations:
(1) Queen Katherine, Henry VIII
(2) Horatio, Hamlet
(3) Pandarus, Troilus and Cressida
(4) Tranio, The Taming Of The Shrew
(5) Lord Hastings, Henry IV, Part II
(6) Countess, All’s Well That Ends Well
(7) Portia, The Merchant of Venice
(8) Prospero, The Tempest
(9) Richard II, Richard II
(10)  Prospero, The Tempest
(11)  Imogen, Cymbeline
(12)  Henry VIII, Henry VIII
(13)  Princess of France, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(14)  Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing
(15)  Volumnia, Coriolanus
(16)  Sir Thomas Grey, Henry V
(17)  Bianca, The Taming of the Shrew
(18)  Sir Nathaniel, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(19)  Biron, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(20)  Dolabella, Antony and Cleopatra
(21)  Romeo, Romeo and Juliet
(22)  Sicinius Velutus, Coriolanus
(23)  Biron, Love’s Labour’s Lost
(24)  Brutus, Julius Caesar
(25)  Regan, King Lear
(26)  Claudius, Hamlet
(27)  Oliver, As You Like It
(28)  Dick Cade, Henry VI, Part I
(29)  Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece
(30)  Archbishop Cranmer, Henry VI, Part II