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Index: Dossier: Shakespeare in The Fortnightly

A Phoenix for Eliza.

Nigel Wheale: ‘Salusbury the dedicatee has rarely been considered or even recalled as a context for understanding ‘the most mysterious poem in English’. What he or his family, his literary and musical acquaintances, might have made of ‘Let the bird of loudest lay’ is beyond recovery. But from a brief review of his biography and family circumstances, we can surely be confident that these were committed readers and writers of poetry, amongst whom Shakespeare’s poem circulated, and we can imagine, stirred interest. ‘

Writing to Shakespeare.

Bonnefoy: ‘…you’re standing in a corner of the theatre. It’s cold, and a wind seems to be blowing. You’re talking to several men, young and old. One of them will be Hamlet; another, Ophelia. Do you have an idea to explain to them? No. Hamlet is being written here, at this very moment, in the sentences that come to you, that take you by surprise. It’s virtually an improvisation, over several days divided between your table—I don’t know where—and the stage: a text, certainly, but one you cross out off-the-cuff, as when you understand—for example, at this very instant—that your future Hamlet doesn’t grasp all that well what you’re trying to tell him.’

Three essays on ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘The heart of the play—the “heartless” heart—is the final scene of Act IV. Ill-assorted, often omitted, it takes on its full meaning only in retrospect. The House of Capulet is in mourning: the Nurse babbles her sorrow, Juliet’s parents are repentant, and Paris joins them in their laments, flat as his platitudes may sound. The concluding vignette leaves all that behind, looping back to the comic vein of the play’s first half.’

Shakespeare in fragments.

‘And so they dug me up. And so he picks my skull out, having heard me named by our rugged chorister of death here in the graveyard. Like Lazarus brought back from the grave, though in my case left to moulder a little longer. Another of his I’s; another of his eyes. Erasmus says the king has a thousand eyes, and in two years time he’ll be one of The King’s Men. To see him stare like that, right through me (as he sees through every one of us these days). He sees through my inventions, including the one that bears his name. Makes me wish for a moment to be dressed in flesh again, if only to tempt him to a jig, the way we used to, before his melancholy and his antic disposition. And this little indisposition of mine, in the form of my mortal annihilation.’

A solution to the mystery of Macbeth’s witches.

W. J. Lawrence: Plague had occasioned the closing of the playhouses in July 1608 and, save for a few days at Christmas, acting was not permitted again till late in November of the following year. One result of this, it would seem, was that Shakespeare, no longer a player and wearied out by his spell of corrosive inaction, retired for good to Stratford-on-Avon, thenceforth only taking occasional trips to town to bring his old associates a new play and to receive from them his dividends as “housekeeper.”