he accomplished that.rnThai others in the game of making plays—Marlowe and Kydrnand Greene, for example, even Ben Jonson, though he was luckierrnthan he had any right to be—flared brightly as talents andrnmanv came to bad and sad ends. Their lives are more interestingrnto think about because they arc perfectly imaginable, thenrnor now. The good deal that we do know about Shakespeare’srnlife tells us that it was a quiet, sober life, first to last. All his greatrnad’cntures, in that age of adventuring, are there in his wordsrnand works, the creatures of his imagination, the power and glorrnof which is bevond imagining.rnThat from his works there are clues and kevs to the man.rnThat he is the perfect Elizabethan of the second generation ofrnElizabeth’s reign. That he shares the same education that hisrnaudience did, and that it was a good one, too. fie was sparedrnthe pains and pleasures of the university, just look what happenedrnto “the university wits.” (Marlowe dead on the floor,rnmurdered in a barroom brawl.) That Shakespeare so exactlyrnshared the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of his audience thatrnhe is almost anonymous, at least in the conventional contemporar”rnsense of “personalitv.” He earned an enviable reputation,rnbut in no wav could be called (then or now) a celebrity.rnTliat he was not a rebel, either. The best fiction about him (sornfar) is Anthony Burgess’s Nothing Like the Sun (1964). ButrnBurgess had to cheat, making Shakespeare, albeit in his “lost”rn ears, a modern artist full of rage and rebellion, an angry youngrnhippie of 1964. Not bloody likely. It seems pretty clear thatrnShakespeare as we know him, in his work, was in no wav sub-rnersi’c, though, like everybody else in his time, he had mixedrnfeelings about many things.rnThe remarkable thing for us to remember is how free hernwas, how free they were to consider any and all aspects ofrnthe human condition, social and political complexities ancientrnand modern, without benefit of what we call “freedom ofrnspeech.” In fact, it was a time when vou could be whipped orrnbranded or even lose a hand or two for certain kinds of subjectsrnand libels. None of that seems to have inhibited Shakespearernmuch. What is missmg in his plays? Well, maybe modernrnpornograph’ which is certainly absent. Instead he can be and isrnbawdy even in surprising places like the love scenes of Romeornand Juliet. Think about it: how very few of our writers, popularrnor “literary,” can handle the language and drama of simultaneous,rnmixed, or contrary feelings. Think, precious First Amendmentrnor not, how many topics and subjects are dutifullyrna’oided by our writers, as unacceptable, unthinkable, sclf-dcstrueti’rne. The da’ before the Eari of Essex rebelled against hisrnQueen, he treated his rebels to a special production of Shakespeare’srnRichard the Second, most likely, it is believed, for thernsake of the deposition scene. The Queen was not amused butrnnever for a moment held it against Shakespeare or his company.rnDays later they were performing for her at Court. It taxesrncredulity to imagine any modern head of state doing the samernthing.rnShakespeare lives on m our time, finally, because he lived fullyrnin the right time and at the right place and was not only arngood and decent man but also one who earned repute in hisrnlifetime (and in memory) for being so. I Ic lived well and c]uietlyrnand lives on most richly in his works. Those riches mostrnlikely v’ill outlast all our own. A safe bet. Meantime, in its wisdom,rnthe Neu’ York Times Magazine (Barry Singer, “All Shakespeare,rnAll the Time: The Bard has never been this popular inrnAmerica—on stage, soaps and bubble gum wrappers,” June 16,rn1996) tells us: “It’s wondrous and strange how often, and where,rnShakespeare turns up across America, his characters infinitch’rnmalleable, his themes permanently pertinent.” We learn that,rnamong many things headed for us, at us, like it or not, is anotherrnfilm of Hamlet, this one directed by Kenneth Branagh andrnstarring Bill) Crystal and Robin Williams.rnOn the Bach St. Matthew PassionrnHoly Saturday 1995rnbr Frederick TurnerrnAgain a god goes underground.rnShowing a worid that never learns to seernThat all authority is bought and boundrnBy blood unspeakable and agony.rnPity all kings and presidents.rnIf they’x’c not paid already, they will pay.rnEorgive their arrogance, incompetence.rnAnd till it is a sm, ou must obey.rnM th bought by wounding of the tonguernThreads with its muteness all the pearls of words;rnA spear thrust through the vessel of the lungrnBreaks silence into most miraculous sherds.rnSoul of the world, smashed to your tomb,rnHow do you bear that monstrous weight of guilt?rnAh, king, who now endure your never-ending doom.rnHow do you bear the v’orid that it has built?rnAcross one hemisphere the flowersrnBlush through the continents in white and red:rnTongues of the earth, fed with the freshening showersrnOf white blood from a god-king who is dead.rnSEPTEMBER 1996/19rnrnrn