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Shakespearean Poems: The man through his words

Everything you read and everything you comprehend springs from a singular poetic consciousness. This consciousness evolved from the germ of an idea of a literary genius.

This literary genius, in turn, has become a subject of memes for students. He causes them sleepless nights - even paranoia - before an English exam. Admittedly, there is something incredible about the gravity of thought he possessed. There's something even more mesmerizing about his mastery of human comprehension.

William Shakespeare.

How do you sketch this man by virtue of his own literary expressions? Several hundred years after his abode, his qualities are still mysterious. And all you thought you knew about him is merely an estimation. This includes his portrait which till date hasn't been confirmed that it is actually his. Even his details as to where he was born and where he was educated and whether ''his works'' are his works at all are all subjects of widespread speculation.

So let us delve into the man behind a multitude of masterpieces. Masterpieces that could be scary to begin with -but wondrous and beautiful when you live through them. Today's deep dive we would achieve through his own works - chiefly poetry.

Of the numerous literary pursuits Shakespeare had undertaken to fulfil, poetry was that 'private closet' he was not keen to project to the world. Francis Meres had referred in 1598 to Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets" among his private friends. Shakespeare composed poetry solely for private readership. He was never keen to make it public. Perhaps they reflected aspects of him he didn't intend to divulge. In 1599, some of his poetry was published without his express permission.

There have been majorly four aspects of Shakespeare that have been the subject of intense debate. His own belief in his works, his religious belief, his sexuality and his portraiture. Wordsworth affirmed that through his poetry- “Shakespeare unlocked his heart". There is reason to assert the person in his poems was Shakespeare himself. The writing techniques implied in his sonnet are so distant from those in his title works- particularly plays- that it is almost certain they held a secret aspect of Shakespeare.

While the debate on his religious beliefs springs from his documents in that era, details into his appearance were lost in history. There is no surviving evidence to support the idea that he ever commissioned his portrait for painting. In the eighteenth century the market was fuelled by the demand of Shakespearean portraits . Consequently fake representations did the circulation and what survives today is one of them. There is no written evidence as to his appearance or physical build up. His mysteriously extraordinary abilities make it more appealing to dig deeper into his day and age.

Diving a little into the same, it might be a pleasant piece for the LGBTQ+ community to cherish that Shakespeare was one among them.

Of the 154 sonnets he wrote 126 are addressed to a "fair youth". Sonnet 20 begins with : ‘A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted,/Hast thou the master mistress of my passion…’ .

This is referred to a fair youth that critics point out to Shakespeare's romantic passion for men. In the course of various sonnets he is consumed by the youth's beauty and is enviously awake all night. In fact, Nature herself was so consumed by that beauty that in order to forego lesbianism she "pricked thee out for women's pleasure" and thus implying that at the last turn of events Nature transformed the beauty into a fair youth for her sake.

In the sonnets numbered 127-154 a "dark lady" appears and Shakespeare is perhaps willing to become occasionally infidel. This indeed raises questions on Shakespeare's dramatic themes, wherein he argued fiercely against adultery. However within his poetry, his bisexuality comes to the fore and clearly states which of the two he prefers:

Two loves I have of comfort and despair

Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

The better angel is a man right fair,

The worser spirit a woman coloured ill

Shakespeare clearly chooses the man as his love and beloved. This so shocked his critics that they refused to acknowledge it.

Although notably it was not common for Elizabethan poets to write poetry on gay love. Shakespeare's critics argued in his favour that this might in fact be a gross assumption. They argued that the youth is just an imaginary character. Yet the yarn of bisexuality is very pronounced even if it were not for Shakespeare himself. However, Shakespeare's reservation for his poetry and a sense of uneasiness to publish the same during his lifetime might give the cue.

In summation, Shakespeare was indeed ahead of his time. He universally manifested everything that existed in the human realm. Whether his poetry reflected his inner recesses, it's certain he held an unparalleled vision.

In conclusion, Ben Jonson is right in saying-

"He was not of an age but for all time."

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