Shakespeare (Sonnet 94)


AG: So, [Sonnet 94]

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed out-braves his dignity;
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

So he’s only.. he began with praising the prettiest lily around, but then he’s being tormented a little bit and is beginning to get a little bitter about it now, and, actually, beginning to have bad thoughts about his boyfriend – “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” – and there is some hint throughout these Sonnets that things have gone on badly in the love affair, (by the ninety-fourth sonnet there), and there’s been some other intrusion of.. I think there was a “dark lady” somewhere (I don’t know whether she came in here or earlier – [editorial note – the “dark lady” sonnets are generally considered to be Sonnets 127-154] -) No, I think he’d had…he’d made out with another poet, his boyfriend had made out with another poet and Shakespeare had got jealous and (written) a whole bunch of sonnets about ..”maybe this guy can write better than me, but I’m more sincere”, or “maybe he’s going to flatter you more with a lot of pretty words, but mine are straighter and more sincere, simpler, straightforward and mine will outlast his” – And then there’s one horrible sonnet where he says “this guy even writes better than me and I have nothing but my defensiveness now”. Poor Shakespeare, he even said, in this sonnet, you know, whoever it was could even out-write him! ,you know, totally humiliate him – but still he loved the guy and would the guy please come back, and at least Shakespeare was sincere). But then, apparently this guy got the clap or something..

Peter Orlovsky: How how how? Where where where?

AG: “But if that flower with base infection meet”, – “But if that flower…” Now this is not my interpretation. There seems to be a modern interpretation by Shakespeare experts, who, examining the language have found that in certain of the Sonnets there’s a couple of words that have to do with syphilis actually. And it gets to be a real weird triangle. It’s some “dark lady” that his boyfriend is making it with, making it with, that maybe Shakespeare introduced him to because he was Shakespeare’s old girlfriend, and the boy steals the girlfriend, and then they all three of them make it, and then the girlfriend goes off with the boyfriend and they both leave Shakespeare alone, and so, Shakespeare, like, goes to…first he went through the torments with the other poet or playwright, then he goes through the torments with the girl, and by the time it’s…and then, apparently, the girl gives them both clap maybe, or syphilis, or something (I’ve forgottten what it is) .But there is a…

Peter Orlovsky: He did all this while he was still married?

AG: I don’t know. Let’s see…

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-eight-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-two minutes in]

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