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Shakespeare’s Mock Poetry

Shakespeare is legendary for his witty use of language. And Shakespeare’s self-awareness enhances this comedy: Shakespeare mocks the poet, realizing that he himself is one. He takes goal at poets by what we’ll name “mock poetry”––unhealthy poetry written by his characters.

Orlando’s Love Poems to Rosalind

In As You Like It, Shakespeare mocks the act of writing love poetry and the lover/poet himself. In Act III, Scene 2, Orlando reads aloud considered one of his love poems to Rosalind: 

    “From the east to western Ind,

    No jewel is like Rosalind.

    Her value, being mounted on the wind,

    Through all of the world bears Rosalind.

    All the photographs fairest lined

    Are however black to Rosalind.

    Let no truthful be stored in thoughts

    But the truthful of Rosalind.” (As You Like It, Act III, Scene 2, Lines 88-95)

This poem is deliberately––and comically––horrible. Shakespeare forces the rhyme for comedic impact: to make “lined” and “thoughts” rhyme with Rosalind, we should learn the title as roz-uh-LINEd.

And, by Touchstone, Shakespeare acknowledges the ridiculousness of this poetry. Touchstone claims that he might write poetry simply as unhealthy as Orlando’s on the spot:

    “For a style: 

    If a hart do lack a hind,

    Let him search out Rosalind.

    If the cat will after type,

    So make certain will Rosalind.

    Winter clothes should be lined,

    So should slender Rosalind.

    They that reap should sheaf and bind;

    Then to cart with Rosalind.

    Sweetest nut hath sourest rind,

    Such a nut is Rosalind.

    He that sweetest rose will discover

    Must discover love’s prick and Rosalind.” (As You Like It, Act III, Scene 2, Lines 100-112)

Here, Touchstone mimics the compelled rhyming in Orlando’s poetry to be able to mock it.

Shakespeare’s Contemporary: John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631) additionally mocked the act of writing love poetry and the determine of the lover/poet in his sonnet “The Triple Fool”:

    “I’m two fools, I do know,

        For loving, and for saying so

            In whining poetry;

    But the place’s that wiseman, that will not be I,

            If she wouldn’t deny?

    Then as th’ earth’s inward slim crooked lanes

        Do purge sea water’s fretful salt away,

    I assumed, if I might draw my pains

       Through rhyme’s vexation, I ought to them allay.

    Grief dropped at numbers can’t be so fierce,

    For he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

        But when I’ve achieved so,

        Some man, his artwork and voice to point out,

            Doth set and sing my ache;

    And, by delighting many, frees once more

            Grief, which verse did restrain.

    To love and grief tribute of verse belongs, 

        But not of comparable to pleases when ‘its learn.

    Both are elevated by such songs,

        For each their triumphs so are printed,

    And I, which was two fools, accomplish that develop three;

    Who are slightly smart, the very best fools be.” (“The Triple Fool”)

We see a few similarities to Shakespeare right here. There’s the self-awareness and mocking of the lover/poet by a lover/poet. Donne argues that the method of writing and publishing love poetry is counter-productive: it “restrain[s]” the “grief” of an unrequited love, solely to let it free once more. There’s additionally the trope of a smart idiot––as within the well-known quote “The idiot doth suppose he’s smart, however the smart man is aware of himself to be a idiot” (As You Like It, Act V, Scene 1, Lines 31-32).

Post-Shakespeare: Mark Twain

Mark Twain makes use of the identical trope that Shakespeare does in As You Like It in his novel Huckleberry Finn. In Huckleberry Finn, Twain depicts younger Emmeline Grangerford writing poetry. Instead of writing about love, like Orlando, Emmeline writes about loss of life. Her poetry, like this poem she wrote concerning the loss of life of a boy in her neighborhood that she examine within the newspaper, is simply as comically unhealthy as Orlando’s:

    “And did younger Stephen sicken,

    And did younger Stephen die? 

    And did the unhappy hearts thicken,

    And did the mourners cry?

    No; such was not the destiny of

    Young Stephen Dowling Bots;

    Though unhappy hearts spherical him thickened,

    ‘Twas not from illness’ photographs.

    No whooping-cough did rack his body,

    Nor measles dread, with spots;

    Not these impaired the sacred title

    Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

    Despised love struck not with woe

    That curly head of knots,

    Nor abdomen troubles laid him low,

    Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

    O no. Then checklist with tearful eye,

    Whilst I his destiny do inform.

    His soul did from this chilly world fly,

    By falling down a nicely.

    They bought him out and emptied him;

    Alas it was too late;

    His spirit was gone for to sport aloft

    In the realms of the nice and nice.” (“Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.”)

Twain employs the compelled rhyme, identical to Shakespeare does, to create comedy. Emmeline Grangerford writes phrases with out that means––comparable to “unhappy hearts thicken” and “illness’ photographs”––simply to make the poem rhyme.

Twain then takes this method, of making comedy by what’s meaningless, even additional: Emmeline Grangerford spends her complete poem telling us how Stephen didn’t die, slightly than how he did die. And, after all, her checklist of how to die (comparable to by “abdomen troubles”) and Stephen’s precise method of loss of life (“falling down a nicely”) are splendidly humorous. 

Also, this poem is hilariously tone-deaf: Emmeline writes about loss of life in a foolish method, with a meter that sounds extra acceptable for a rhyme by Dr. Seuss. The tone of the poem creates comedy as a result of Emmeline Grangerford takes herself very significantly as a poet––in the identical method that Orlando takes himself very significantly as a lover. The viewers members snigger not solely on the poetry, but in addition on the poet’s response to that poetry. Orlando and Emmeline suppose they’re very proficient poets, and that satisfaction makes them a pure supply of mockery. 

Pictured: Orlando pinning poems to trees. Watercolor by Hugh Thomson, c. 1900.
Hugh Thomson, c. 1900. Watercolor.


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