Many people find Shakespeare's work as 'tough'; but those who do understand, do understand what a genius he was. But was he a good poet?
The short answer is 'yes'.
There are occasions in the plays where he puts some pretty lame poetry in the mouths of his characters, but on these occasions, the character may well be a jester and is not supposed to be a great poet. So it's good characterisation.
The sonnet sequence is exceptional taken as a whole, with many of the individual sonnets widely recognised as standalone masterpieces.
(And of course most of the history and tragedy plays are written entirely in blank verse).
I'm wondering why you asked the question?
Good that you wondered...
Do you know what this thing is called Poetry? -If only you can answer that question I have nothing else to ask.
I'd settle for Louis Armstrong's answer when asked to define jazz - If you have to ask 'what is it?' you ain't never going to know!
Yes, but if thousands of people's subjectivities appear to coalesce around the works of particular poets, maybe there is something of substance there.
Interesting-- Do you consider ' thousands of people's subjectivities' to be any evidence for any given phenomenon?...like religion, faith, or appreciation of literature?
I don't want to take this to the realms of religion or faith, because I've written plenty of hubs on these topics.
But keeping with poetry, the world is full of wannabe poets who are sure their stuff is good. If thousands of people concur in respect of certain individuals, then maybe their stuff really is good. If hardly anyone does, maybe it's not.
Of course there are plenty of objective criteria too, especially in formal poetry (such as Shakespeare's).
Did you say 'may be'...?
I will love to hear those objective criteria, if such a thing exists. I never heard anything called 'formal poetry'...nice to get to know such a fabulous form of literature exists.
Formal poetry means poetry written to an established form, e.g. sonnet, rondel, villanelle, triolet, ballade, etc.
There's nothing 'fabulous' about it, but I begin to suspect that you haven't really looked far into the traditions of poetry through the ages. Correct me if I'm wrong.
established form - again...who established them?
Poets established the various forms. You'll find that there were often loose circles of poets writing within the forms that were fashionable at different times and places and generally not straying very far from the formal conventions. But also you'll find that sometimes a form is forever associated with its greatest exponent who may not have been the inventor but who took it to a new level of expression. For example:
Petrarch - the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet
Shakespeare - the English or Shakespearean sonnet
Villon - the Ballade
Burns - the Standard Habbie
Villon and Burns each took an old, almost moribund, form and breathed new life into it through their creative genius.
Of course, though the poets themselves established the forms, it was often the academics who produced the written descriptions (or rules) for the forms. But in every case they did this post hoc. They did not sit in their studies inventing forms. The poets were the inventors.
Does that help?
Yea! You spoke for me!
I am interested to invent my own form.
No reason why you shouldn't. The tricky part is inventing one that others want to emulate. This will only happen if you produce several good examples in the form and get them widely circulated through publication in a respected journal or anthology.
Thanks Paraglider. I will publish someday.
One thing to add- I don't want anyone emulate my style, or any other writer's. We all must create ourselves.
To ask 'what is poetry' is to ask 'what is love' for
if i could live upon your tattered brow
and bathe my heart within your silken tear
then there would be the portent of my dream
complete resplendant love unbidden there
but suddenly i am no longer bold
remove the words of anger spoken there
what once was full of life now quickly gone
the cause of such defeat i can not bear
so precious to your soul the gift you hid
you close your heart from breaking even now
no flame nor e'en desire holding there
but i, to save your love and this i vow
would live among the misty streets of dreams
if i could live upon your tattered brow
What is poetry, indeed.
Your question got me thinking. Maybe we perceive him as a good poet because of what others told us. Personally, is it us who love his poetry or others?
Of course his reputation goes before him, but I can be counted among the many who genuinely enjoy and revere his poetry.
Having said that, the intensity, poetic diction and Elizabethan English combine to make him a difficult read without a bit of work and/or a good teacher.
Yes , but the drama "JULIUS CESAR" I don't understand.
For me, Shakespeare was a good Thinker, a better Writer, a great Rebel, but a mediocre Poet - if poetry is about beauty and subtlety.
He has a practical usefulness, but does he have spiritual intensity? I doubt...
You are right. Many people praise him out of conformity; that's so easy.
I want to encourage anyone to have an opinion, but people we need to base our discussions in fact and reality.
Let's talk about the reality of Shakespeare's poetry. He only wrote it for a brief period in his career when the plague closed the theater houses in London around 1590. He wrote two longer, book length verses and he wrote 154 Sonnets in this time. Now lets look at the evidence for his genius:
The feminine formation of iambic pentameter adds an additional syllable for line, making 11 total. There are 14 lines in a Sonnet. That means the maximum number of syllables for any Sonnet is 154.
Now, Petrarch, for those who don't know, made the Petrarchan Sonnet the foremost form of poetry in his day. We're spoiled with the advents of E.E. Cummings, T.S Eliot, and others to have our ideas of poetry broken free from what the term meant when Shakespeare encountered it.
Shakespeare encountered the Petrarchan Sonnet (An Octet, a turn, and Sextet). It was incredibly popular. So what did Shakespeare do? He said, I'll see your rules and raise them by my own:
I'll use three quartets and a couplet. I'll preserve your original turn at line 9, but I'll add another one at line 13. I'll redefine my rhyming scheme even more strictly than Petrarch, and then I'll turn the Sonnet on it's head in 154 different ways.
My personal favorite trick he does is use the word WIll to refer to himself as well as the will to do something. It's genius all the ways he turns it around (I think it's like Sonnets 134-137).
Furthermore, he has some powerful analogies between love and all sorts of things in this world that he develops into phrases that have three or more definitive meanings that not only don't conflict one another, but enhance the meaning as a whole. For example, the idea of distilling beauty for preservation against time is discussed as a process of pressing flower leaves, having a child, or having poetry written about you for quite a long time in the beginning as the speaker, and older man, tries to convince the object of the Sonnets, a younger man, to be judicious with this love. Not only this, but Shakespeare effectively subverts the speakers own desires both syntactically and semantically through inventive word play.
The truth of the matter is, if you don't think Shakespeare is a great poet, you haven't done the work to encounter him as he demands to be encountered.
People, your opinions are fine, but William Shakespeare's work stands in defiance of ignorance for anyone with the desire and passion to encounter this unique and most satisfyingly brilliant of men.
Please go pickup a copy of the Arden Shakespeare's Sonnets and read the notes on each Sonnet as you go through as well as the essays before and after, as I did. It will edify and delight all who seriously wish to understand Shakespeare.
To call him mediocre is to vastly misunderstand poetry, the development of the English language and poetry, history on this planet, and your own assessment skills.
You go too rash before you understand someone. Don't get it personal, Shakespeare is neither my uncle or your uncle.
Just tell me what is Poetry? I will assess later; you may try to find one yourself. Poetry is a subjective matter. It depends on the reader what he likes or dislikes. Unless you can prove objective substance in a poem, that enterprise is worthless.
cdub - nicely done.
'The truth of the matter is, if you don't think Shakespeare is a great poet, you haven't done the work to encounter him as he demands to be encountered'.
Truer words were never spoken about any artist who deviates from the accepted standards. IMO, every artist demands to be encountered on his own terms. One reason I abhor juries. They make us suffer for our insanity.
Yes, I think Shakespeare was a good poet. The very best I think.
I love Shakespeare's sonnets, especially 116. It was read at my oldest daughter's wedding. You guys know that many of the sonnets were written to another man?
Yep. The polite establishment were long in denial of it, of course.
May I ask - are you saying that many of his poems were written by other writers?
I am going to say it was s lover, as there are other duarte from citizens within the city that told of his escapades.
He really was a good poet. But sometimes it is not easy to understand what is the meaning of his poem.
by karthu 14 years ago
Shakespeare has written many sonnets and you know it is hard to get what he meant.Here is the translation of his sonnets into modern english which anyone can understand...
by Melanie Palen 11 years ago
What are some tips for reading and understanding Shakespeare?
by Jamie Lee Hamann 7 years ago
Do sonnets have ten or eleven syllables? I feel like it should be ten, but many have eleven?Especially since most of them are Iambic Pentameter which should be five feet?
by Mike Pugh 7 years ago
Do you consider yourself to be a true Poet?If so please explain what certifies you as such, you can draw from your writers experience here on Hubpages, or from your true life on the ground of writing for the shear love of poetry. (No spammy answers though with links or the likes.) Note: The purpose...
by the pink umbrella 9 years ago
Have you ever seen someone, or read an email from someone, and without even knowing them just felt like they had bad intentions or a darkness around them? And the other way around, ever meet someone and just feel like they are a really good person?
by Dizzy Barlow 4 years ago
I am hoping to receive a post from each poet on Hubpages so that I may read your work and follow you.Thanks,Surfeitt
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