Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
We’ve all heard that one, right? Willy Shakes, doing his part to help unpoetical dudes woo starry-eyed ladies with semi-comprehensible prose. I mean, what’s better than comparing your lady to t-shirt weather, amirite?
Right-ish. OI’ Will was comparing somebody to inclement weather (shall I compare thee to a precipitous drop in barometric pressure/thou art less likely to cause my knee to swell up), but modern scholars generally believe that his intended was not so much a she as a he.
“Ha!” you say. “I suspected as much, what with his…thespian-ness.”
Well, I can’t speak for the proclivities of The Bard betwixt the sheets, but what I can tell you is that the above poesy is likely aimed at one Lord Wriothesley, and not at all for the reasons you are knowingly intimating (okay, so maybe those reasons are a bit true, but they’re not specifically germane to the argument, so stop chuckling and elbowing your neighbor and let’s move along).
See, Wriothesley was Shakespeare’s patron. To wit: he decided he liked the cut of young William’s jib (sigh…not in that way (maybe)) so much that he literally paid ye olde poet to write about how great he (Wriothesley) was. Can you imagine? Getting paid to practice your art, and all you have to do is fling a couple flowery adjectives in the direction of a dude that thinks you write well.
I can think of worse things.
In fact, patronage was a big deal for a long time, and not just in Jolly Olde England(e). For years, up-and-comers were supported by persons who understood the need for the nascent artist to have a financial spar to cling to while they get their feet underneath them.
We have it today, too, in the form of projects like Kickstarter. Just think! You can be your own H/O scale Wriothesley, generously supporting the arts for no other reason than because you can.
And think, maybe someday the starving poet you support will be as big as Willy Shakes, and you the stalwart hero about which gender-mistaken poetry is writ.
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