Shakespeare Dreams

Had an odd dream last night that I was hanging out at the bookstore, in the Shakespeare section of course, when two girls – maybe 6 years old? – started discussing Sonnet 18.  Specifically one of them, the smarty pants (and one of them is always the smarty pants) is trying to explain to her friend that you need to only read the first and last lines and you’ll know what it means.  So they read “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”  She then naturally decide that, because the person is like summer, she’ll live forever because summer always comes back.  Her friend does not seem convinced.

“You have to read the middle too,” I tell them.  Then, so I’m not the random stranger talking to little kids without permission, I explain to their mother that my own children started Shakespeare with this sonnet as well.  That gets us into a discussion about which plays to start with (Tempest and Midsummer, ‘natch) before I am awakened to reality, ironically, enough, by one of my own children.  She is having her own bad dream that the aliens have come to take her away.

5 thoughts on “Shakespeare Dreams

  1. An interesting sonnet to start your kids on. It is, you know, a turning point in the sonnet sequence, when the speaker of The Sonnets changes his argument from insisting that the beloved must beget children in order to attain immortality to the claim that the poetry he is writing will make him live forever. So, of course, your dream persona is correct that one must read the middle.

    My own son read all the sonnets (he just scoffed one of my editions hanging around). His favorite was 128: "How oft when thou, my music, music playst…"

  2. So there's an interesting bibliograpical sidenote: I wrote "scoffed" when I meant "scarfed." In my day job I do a lot of typing of notes, very fast, and have noted some common typographical errors I had not seen before, but are very common in Shakespeare, like substituting homonyms (or close homonyms) and adding extra letters on the ends of words (especially a "d" after an "e"). These are often mystifying to the editor, but as I see myself doing this as I type (sometimes catching myself in the process–even something silly like typing "patience" instead of "patients") I am amazed at the cross-circuits of the human brain!
    It is interesting that some editors have taken the obvious substitution of homonyms in Shakespeare to be evidence that compositors used "auditors" as they worked, ie, someone who read copy to them as they set type. I think they were just working fast.

  3. Strangely, enough, I had Shakespearean nightmares twice, once during my thesis, and again when I was directing a production of Romeo and Juliet. It feels incredibly strange to dream in iambic pentameter.

  4. The circumstances were far too practical, Carl — Sonnet 18, set to music and sung by David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd fame) was the ringtone on my phone. The kids came to recognize "Shall I compare thee, to a summer's day…" every time the phone rang. So somewhere along the line I started singing the whole thing to them as a lullaby at night.

    Was that before you joined the site? Somewhere in the archives I've got many stories about that, including audio of them singing it themselves at I think 3 and 5.

  5. Yes, Duane, that was before I joined the site. I remember now you mentioning you sang it as a lullaby, but had not known the origin.
    Have you ever had one of those moments when you are in the middle of something serious and have not silenced your cellphone and it rings and it all of a sudden sounds incredibly inappropriate?

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