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We have been so busy with other writing projects, that we almost missed one of our favorite themes of the year; love. Luckily The Bard bailed us all of this one, and we got you a piece before the month is over.
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Was William Shakespeare Good With Women - Op-Ed Piece
No writer epitomizes love more than The Bard himself. Whenever love is in the air, whether it is an older couple reminiscing of their long life together, or two young lovers trying to contain their passions, Shakespeare’s words are heard when we think about love. It is as if the air learned a few lines from the master of love, filling itself with what we all feel on Valentine’s Day.
Who better to quote about love than Shakespeare? Even after all these years, it is him, who writers try to and fail to imitate, and readers quote when we are in love with another person.
In our obsession with the man, who is quickly becoming, a myth and legend, we have created a persona of the figure. But, like other historical figures, like Abe Lincoln, we forget that William Shakespeare was a breathing living human being who shared this Earth with the rest of us.
In this adoration of the figure, we give him credit in areas that are historically speaking are wrong. That is where Shakespeare’s persona comes into play, no pun intended. As we fill our own needs of love, lust, passion, and meaning, we mistook our quoting of the author to reflect his character. We believe that the lover who wrote the words we read has the same passionate heart and loving mind as we do when we read them.
I am here to say that William Shakespeare was not as good with women as you, or I or anyone else thinks he was.
He Was Good With Love
Before I go into why Shakespeare isn’t the lover you think he was, let me clarify one thing; he understood love. He knew its merits that filled the aching soul, its chains that restricted unrestrained lust, and the many obstacles that this physical world gives to a mental, emotional, and physical feeling between two people. He knew battles that love could give someone, how the victories are sweet as apple pie, and losses hurt more than a blade to the chest. Shakespeare had such a profound understanding of human life and the love within it that only Jesus Christ can claim to have more insight into the one thing we all want on Valentine’s Day. Many scholars and historians have been trying to figure out where the man learned of this insight for centuries. Yet, the man who understands love and life, as much as anyone else, is a no-name playwright with no formal education. So you can see why many scholars are stumped. Jesus claimed to be God, but what can Shakespeare claim? To be really smart?
But does understanding love mean he actually lived it? Did he experience all the emotions and experiences that he shares with us in his many works? I say no. You can have a great understanding of a topic and not be great or even involved in it. Somehow The Bard is the world’s greatest love poet, and yet, he didn’t live a life of a great lover.
Think of it like this; you know what makes a great movie, but have you ever made one? Probably not. Yeah, because your knowledge of the topic doesn’t have to equal your experience in it.
I have two reasons for this theory.
First off, look at his personal life.
His Personal Life Doesn’t Support It
Shakespeare married young, like at 18, and not only that, but his bride was a woman, not a girl by any means. Anne Hathaway was 26 when the two got married. Ironically, Shakespeare’s most famous female character is a young girl, when he had no history with dating them in his life, either as a young or older man. I have never heard of any stories of a kid Shakespeare wooing the girls in his classroom or impressing his teenage girlfriends. If that did happen, we have no documents of it.
From what we know of Shakespeare, he was a good husband. He didn’t cheat on his wife. He didn’t have a scandal or affair. It sounds boring and old-fashioned, but we have no evidence to suggest that Shakespeare was going around sleeping with a different woman every night. He didn’t go up to women and flirt till they loved him, filling their hearts with words of love and passion. Most likely, he would end each night seeing the same woman. Which, of course, should be the goal for every man out there, but sadly isn’t.
If a woman today were to meet Shakespeare, she would not be courted by a romantic lover aimed at her affection; rather, she’d be told something very different. “Sorry. I’m married.” Because for all of his professional life, that is what he was. Plus, keep in mind that he was a Catholic, so he didn’t agree with an open free lifestyle. Shakespeare was a one-woman man.
This idea that The Bard went around to bars and seduced any woman he met is wrong. Nothing in his life supports that idea, yet we all think he did that. Sorry ladies, but by the time you met Bill, he was already taken and not interested in you.
Don’t worry, that wasn’t the only reason he wasn’t a great lover.
His Professional Life Doesn’t Support It
If there is one thing you should know about Shakespeare, it is that the guy wrote a lot. Even for today, he wrote a lot of damn plays. And that kind of proficiency doesn’t just happen. It is not an accident or mere genius. Rather William Shakespeare must have been a very hard-working individual, which means that he had no time for the ladies. You can’t become the greatest playwright of all time and spend every night picking up a different woman at a bar. The bachelor lifestyle, the lover lifestyle, the player lifestyle (whatever you want to call it) would not have been useful for Shakespeare because he was too busy writing some of the greatest plays the world has ever known. Evidently, you can’t have it both ways. There is just not enough time in the day.
We all imagine Shakespeare as this great lover and smooth talker when his productivity shows that he was not into love as much as he wrote of it. Instead, he was trying to get paid to write plays. He simply didn’t have time to fool around.
I am not saying that he didn’t have a social life. We know he did because that is why his plays are so diverse with the characters. They not only feature kings and noblemen but also drunks and bums, which he could have only known through a social experience but associating that with a bachelor mentality is incorrect.
For those of you who think that Shakespeare could have had an inter-office romance, I will remind you that he didn’t work with women on his plays. All his co-workers were men, so that idea is also wrong.
Who We Are All Really Thinking Of
Wait, then, so who the hell do all the ladies think Bill is? Who is the romantic, charming fellow all the girls are dreaming about? Romeo…. They are thinking about Romeo. He is the young, good-looking, charismatic, witty, and charming, passionate lover that women love to think would be theirs.
History thinks that William Shakespeare acted like Romeo, whether by accident or not. As I said, though, there is nothing to support this claim. People don’t assume that he was Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear, but Romeo. So when we read Shakespeare’s love lines, we imagine that he is speaking as himself through Romeo.
It should be noted that there is some truth to this assumption. Romeo did act like Shakespeare in one critical way. He loved only one woman. Neither man was messing around with any hoe that could get their hands on. It does say something about love when the most famous character of it loves only one person passionately. Shakespeare only loved Hathaway. Romeo only loved Juliet. Perhaps Romeo is an amalgamation of Shakespeare’s love for his own wife? Maybe.
I’d say that the two men were very different if Romeo went after three or four women in the play. But he didn’t. That is not the point of it all. And that message of the love of one person being superior to the love of many is one that still echoes today. You don’t call anyone your Valentine on Valentine’s Day, but someone who means a lot to you. You don’t celebrate the holiday by picking up a few ladies, getting some wine, and making a night of it. No, you spend the night with the one woman you love. There is correctness; we all feel Shakespeare nailed with his interpretation of love.
The Bard has become associated with love, and as long as we love, we shall share his words, just remember that because he wrote the lines of love doesn’t mean he necessarily acted that way. But who am I kidding? We all want Shakespeare to be Romeo, right? And that is not changing anytime soon.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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