I’ve been hanging with Will Shakespeare the last couple of days. No. It’s true–I have. I’m listening to a University course on CD taught by Professor Grant Voth from Monterey Peninsula College titled “The History of World Literature,” and it’s Shakespeare we’ve been visiting.
When I was in High School, we weren’t really taught Shakespeare; at least that’s how I remember it. It was more like having Macbeth and the Merchant of Venice and I don’t remember who else shoved down our throats. I can’t say that anything of this brilliant writer struck me as something I would want to carry with me into adult life. If he made his way into college or graduate level studies, I must have tuned out, but I rather suspect he was not deemed critical for the practice of nursing or health care administration. So now I’m catching up and falling in love with his work for the first time.
Professor Voth admitted that it would be hard to give much due to the man in a half hour lecture (the series is a total of 48 sessions) so he chose to home in on a specific aspect of Shakespeare’s use of language. I’d like to share one little tidbit that struck me: negative capability. The poet Keats, known to most of us who crawl around in our poetry communities, offered the term to describe Shakespeare’s ability to empty himself of his ego in order to identify totally with the over 1000 characters he developed. Voth asserts that if you were to receive a quantity of character monologues without knowing the plays, you would be able to sort them by character. They are that distinctive. People of multiple professions will swear that Shakespeare was one of them: lawyer, sailor…you get the idea.
For today’s prompt, I suggest this: Make an effort to so completely enter the persona of a character you create, whether in prose or poetry. Try to make it so real that your readers will believe that it’s really a part of your experience.
I will link a Sestina I previously posted titled “Addiction.” Throughout my life I’ve had contact with people who are addicted to substance or process: loved ones, patients and colleagues. I myself have not had to go through the depth of pain I describe in the poem. Both of my novels also have alcoholics in them and, for whatever reason, they have been among the characters I most enjoyed developing.
I hope some of you will take up this challenge. If not, perhaps this short article will encourage you to play with negative capability in your own writing. If you would like to participate, here’s how:
- Write your flash fiction or poem and post it on your blog or website–a novel or short story excerpt is fine, too;
- Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this page. Add your name and the direct URL of your post in the areas indicated;
- Take a few moments to read other entries, especially those of bloggers who’ve commented on your work;
- Be creative and have fun!
Image: Public Domain