Muse, Patron, Lover - Shakespeare had all three but were they all the same person?
It can be argued that the works of Shakespeare both poetic and dramatic present the artist as a highly accessible writer to adults and children alike, as well as to the modern and historical audience. However it can also be said that the two media carry within them a thematic thread that presents an allegorical dichotomy which can be explored so to deduce a coincidental paradigm that illuminates the character of the artist both as a commercial, popular literary figure and also as ‘just a man’. I hope to consider throughout this essay how the influence of muses and patrons as well as audience members have helped to carve Shakespeare as a figure of immense literary proportions. This will not be a historical analysis, neither will it be an exclusive assessment of the impact of his body of work to a modern audience; instead I hope to elucidate how the writer was influenced, at the time of writing, and how these influences have had a direct effect on the interpretation of the works today. To the contemporary audience the plays of Shakespeare (be they the history plays, the tragedies or the comedies), are widely accessible, they possess huge literary importance as well as considerable commercial potential: the stage has been converted to the cinema screen, and TV screen and, as text, they are read in most secondary school English classes, remaining an extremely popular tourist draw: the benefits of which are not only evident in England (Stratford-Upon-Avon in particular), but also in Hollywood. In contrast, the poetic works: the longer poems and the sequence of one hundred and fifty-four sonnets present an increasingly intriguing and curious body of work that escapes commercial categorisation. The poems are open to critical analysis as well as providing the private reader with a literary journey into the character and, some might say, the soul of the writer.
In terms of style, accepting that they differ in artistic genre, the poems are motivated by the exclusive proposition to Shakespeare's patron, in the preface to the manuscript, it is unclear as to whether T.T (Thomas Thorpe) is the recipient or the publisher of the sequence; the other person mentioned is Mr W.H who can be considered as either, "...a friend of the sonnets I-I26? Or... a patron to whom the poems are flatteringly addressed..."1 in both cases the recipient of the published work is exclusive and there cannot be said to be any commercial purpose other than the payment that Shakespeare would have earned for the privilege of their composition. Similarly Venus and Adonis and Lucrece are dedicated as works intended for reception by 'The Right Honourable Henry Worthesley'; in both cases it would be presumptuous to assume that the writer anticipated any other personal emotive conveyance other than that with which he plied to his verse. However, he did not intend them to be written primarily for public consumption; to a modern readership, the poems present a behind-the-scenes inspection of the inner workings of Shakespeare, not only as a writer of word intended for performance, but also in terms of him being a writer who used words for reflection. I suggest that the poems are more romantic due to their apparent confidentiality in contrast to the plays (that by the behest of the seventeenth century genre) were expected to be easily appreciated by those who were wealthy enough to be educated to a level of intricate understanding as well