That multiform & encyclopedic bastard

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare



You claim not to like Shakespeare and I think that isn’t true. It would be like hating the moon.

John Steinbeck | Letter to Elia Kazan, 1969 | A Life in Letters


It was [Shakespeare] who gave that beautiful, slightly sad lilt to the sonnet form, the impressiveness of first lines and the importance and finality of last lines—an atmosphere easy to crawl into without really having the right to be there, and a pillow for any number of weary ideas.

Elizabeth Bishop | Letter to Donald Stanford, 29 Nov 1933 | One Art: Letters


All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald | Letter to his daughter, Scottie, 8 Aug 1933 | A Life in Letters


Shakespeare exhilarates me.

Marianne Moore | Letter to John Warner Moore, 10 May 1923 | The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore


Oh my god! Shakespeare. That multiform & encyclopedic bastard.

John Berryman | Letter to Van Meter Ames, 6 Oct 1952 | The Selected Letters of John Berryman


Shakespeare didn’t invest a tremendous amount of ego in his works. He evidently did not regard them as life-statements—as Bacon might have regarded his Advancement of Learning, or Hobbes his Leviathan, or, a little later, as Milton regarded Paradise Lost. Each of his plays was an experiment: he sets up the apparatus, introduces the ingredients and procedure, and sees how far they will take him. If it fails, he’s not too concerned. He doesn’t care much, if it’s a play of some sort—good at least for a performance or two. He goes on to make another play. His way of correcting the experiment wasn’t to rewrite the play, but to write another. He was making plays for immediate rough and ready use, like making plant-pots.

Ted Hughes | Letter to Donna Feuer, 1979 | Letters of Ted Hughes


It’s raining and I can’t work. Why am I not more like Shakespeare?

Iris Murdoch | Letter to Philippa Foot, 25 May 1968 | Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch


Do you ever find that you have spells of loathing all poetry and thinking all poets, including Shakespeare, affected fools? I am passing through one now. Prose is the stuff.

P. G. Wodehouse | Letter to Denis Mackail, 18 Jun 1951 | P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters