Because Shakespeare reigns supreme this semester, because we we met the loves of our lives in a Shakespeare lecture last semester, because our confidence rests in the canon, because we identify with Hamlet’s existential angst and because Stratford-upon-Avon takes our breath away, we dedicate these hallowed pages to the Bard we love to love.
// BY BAOBAO ZHANG
I went to Walgreens today to buy toothpaste. The store was filled with red and pink, teddy bears and chocolate hearts. Strolling down the aisles, I felt nauseous. The stuffed animals smirked at me with cheeky grins. They seemed to mouth “I LOVE YOU!” like a cultish chant. It didn’t help that last night a boy broke my heart. We stood at a street corner for a minute — in silence — before parting ways.
“Valentine’s Day is so bland,” I thought to myself. Nothing like Shakespeare’s sonnets. The poems have their fair share of roses, kisses, and summer days, but more often, they brim with possibilities. The poet imagines his beloved as a selfish glutton, a transplanted sapling, a seal carved with nature’s beauty. Shakespeare’s sonnets embody the ordinary world, yet they each appear more colorful and brilliant than Kodachrome.
“The sonnets brim with excess, but that’s what makes them great,” English professor David Kastan told my class on Tuesday. “You can’t just paraphrase them.”
At the cash register at Walgreens, I picked up a box of candy hearts. Reading their little messages, I no longer felt regret or jealousy. Valentine’s Day is just a bad paraphrase of love.
Sacrificing for Shakespeare
// BY ANYA GRENIER
If not for Shakespeare, I would not be sitting in the Branford Library right now, typing this. How come? Shakespeare got me into college. Literally: I wrote my Common App essay about the first time I read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Not long after I turned in my applications, I began having serious doubts about my choice of subject matter. I found myself gazing into the abyss of the “college stuff” folder on my computer, only to find what suddenly seemed like an extremely insubstantial essay topic staring back at me. When friends asked me what I had written my Common App essay about I took to mumbling incoherently rather than trying to explain why this had seemed like a good idea. These feelings only grew as I first started receiving replies last spring. Without going into details, I was not one of those kids posting things like “15/12!!” as my Facebook status. I couldn’t understand why, instead of choosing to write my essay about something like my time researching crustaceans in the Arctic Circle or the death of my pet koala, I chose the ever abstract “magic of Shakespeare’s words.” While other people’s essays were convincing admissions boards that they were resourceful, enterprising leaders of the new generation, all mine really showed were that I … really, really liked to read. So I did what anyone would do: I drew a pentacle, sacrificed a couple of goats and begged Shakespeare’s ghost to appear to the admissions officer of whatever school he chose to make my case. And I can only assume this is exactly what happened, because here I am.
// BY JORDI GASSÓ
I will not burden you with ignorant conspiracy theories. Shakespeare wrote his plays and sonnets. End of story. I’m not one for controversy, and yet, as one HBO dirty blonde out of touch with reality always asks: I couldn’t help but wonder something. Why dedicate an entire semester only to the Bard of Avon? Do not get me wrong — I’m all for it. I very much delight in reading all about vile daughters and rotten smells in Denmark. I even commend the English Department’s sleight of hand when it comes to the major’s requirements, which tacitly aim to lead its victims into taking Shakespeare courses (or “The Age of Johnson.” If only!). In any case, I think our campus would benefit from taking a break from the Shakespearean hammer currently beating the heads of its students. Miguel de Cervantes, anyone? And before Jane Levin leaps for joy at my suggestion, let us step outside the Western canon: the “Bhagavad Gita,” “The Tale of Genji,” Cortázar. Okay maybe not Cortázar but one can only hope. So, my apologies to the Elizabethan Club but everybody, drop your copies of “R+J” for one second! Long live el Manco de Lepanto!
Thanks, Shakespeare, for making me cool
// BY ANTONIA CZINGER
I was nine. I had just moved to Ohio. Rehearsal for the fourth grade “Gods and Goddesses” play was in full swing, the deities had already been cast, and I was about to act dejected and forlorn when my teacher asked me to perform something called “Beware the Ides of March.” I was thrilled! The speech was frightening! It was gory! And it was loud! While the other kids shrugged and mumbled through their bits, I roared with all the strength of a four-foot velociraptor. I waved my arms above my head like a sort of crazed voodoo priestess. And boy, oh boy, did I make a first impression. After the performance, parents spoke and I caught the name “Shakespeare” several times, so I assumed the man had written the speech. Since then, I have learned that my speech may not actually be part of the canon. However, the fact that I thought it was by the bard made me adore him. I credited him with my new notoriety and Shakespeare will be forever associated with my fourth grade cool.
// BY FREDDIE RAMOS
O Fate! To suffer unrequited love
Is but a cut of the eternal thread;
But yet my pain I cannot rise above,
My wound is deep — for you, my love, are dead.
Three crones, cruel hags, have made their cold decree
And clos’d your lips with ancient kiss of death
So that your witty tongue can never be
But more than dust; less mouth, sans teeth, no breath.
Though I may breathe the words you cannot speak,
And scribble scripture from the words you write,
I have no way to capture your mystique;
There lies the thought that keeps me up at night.
Pity the stars have ordered death for thee
To have no muse is now my destiny.
A Semi-Apologetic Sonnet on Behalf of Shakespeare’s Ungrateful Posterity
// BY ALEXI SARGEANT
O Bard of Avon whom we all salute,
With dreams of summer midst this winter’s tale,
When our rough pens fall leaden, dull and mute,
Usurping words of thine doth never fail.
Where would we be without “What’s in a name?”
“Alas, poor Yorick,” “All the world’s a stage.”
When not a jot of thought’s our own to claim,
Pluck’d plumes from your great quill are all the rage.
Perhaps this guilt is why we take away
Your laurels, to bequeath to a nobler heir.
Small businessmen from Stratford are passe,
So we pluck off the mask that is not there.
O mortal fools, when will they learn the truth?
Ingratitude’s more sharp than serpent’s tooth.