Poetry / The English Teacher

When ‘Honor’ Is Due

Delicious irony here: the man who penned “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet;” (Romeo & Juliet 2:2) bears a name that, like Romeo’s Montague to Juliet’s Capulet, is anathema to many who hear it.



It’s Shakespeare Week, my friends. You can’t think I, English teacher, poetry sharer and the one who sits on your last good nerve, would ignore him all month. He is arguably the finest writer the English language has ever known! Or, he isn’t. People don’t agree. (that’s why I used the word ‘arguably’… Ohhhhhhh)

Whether his name or his works strike terror, boredom, disdain or, worst of all, dismissal in your hearts, give Shakespeare another try, won’t you? Like poet R.S. Gwynn did:

Shakespearean Sonnet

(With a first line taken from the TV listings)

A man is haunted by his father’s ghost.

A boy and girl love while their families fight.

A Scottish king is murdered by his host.

Two couples get lost on a summer night.

A hunchback murders all who block his way.

A ruler’s rivals plot against his life.

A fat man and a prince make rebels pay.

A noble Moor has doubts about his wife.

An English king decides to conquer France.

A duke learns that his best friend is a she,

A forest sets the scene for this romance.

An old man and his daughters disagree.

A Roman leader makes a big mistake.

A sexy queen is bitten by a snake.

There’s nothing like a bit of homage to the one whose sonnets (154 of them) exemplify the English version of the form (not to be confused with Petrarch, that Italian poet, or Spenser, that writer of The Faerie Queene). Sonnets remain a rather big deal in the poetry world, after all.

What I like about Gwynn’s poem is that, honestly, it’s delightfully brilliant, in an understated way. He gives a bit of honor to the Sonneteer and the sonnet form; he gives a nod to our TV addiction (you decide if it’s complimentary or not; and last, but certainly most important, he bows his head to Shakespeare’s peerless contributions to the stage. Every line of this sonnet neatly summarizes a play written by the Bard. GAH! I love it.

Poetry is “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” But it’s good. Every time.



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