Shakespeare and R L Stevenson altered our minds without drugs

Myth can be created by folklore like Paul Bunyon, a tall tale to be sure, but myths can also arise, inadvertently by an author, from popular fiction that takes on a life of it’s own.

Two cases in point.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The popular conception of pirates is that they buried their treasure because that is what happened in the novel. But there is only one known pirate to do that and it was Captain Kidd, who was more a privateer than pirate. It depended on whether his contemporaries liked him or not. More disliked him than liked him, so to us he is a pirate. Winners write history.

Think of it logically. Why would pirates bury their treasure and return later to dig it up. The entire crew knows where it is, so each larcenous crew member now looks at each other with distrust and paranoia. And don’t think the captain was the boss. A pirate captain was elected by the crew and he did nothing without a vote from the crew. And the crew wants the loot and they want it now. They have been at sea a long time and they want rum and women.

In truth pirates took ships, their cargo, and most of the crew of the captured ship. At one point, Kidd had three captured ships in tow. They would go to a friendly pirate port and sell everything they could, keeping supplies they needed.

The only reason Kidd buried nearly a million dollars in jewels and goods is that he was headed back to New York to answer charges of his piracy so he had to bury the evidence. Didn’t help. Most of his treasure has been found. But other pirates and ‘X’ marks the spot maps are pure fiction, not history. Thank to Long John Silver and R.L. Stevenson.

Another example comes from Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra. Everyone believes Cleo was bitten by an asp while she was a prisoner of the Romans. That is what happens in Old Will’s play, but whether Will was passing on the lore he knew or he made it up, the asp is now our truth. Check any crossword puzzle.

The Romans found her dead. There were two puncture marks. From an asp? Well, according to other records she committed suicide by a poisoned hairpin, not an asp. Poison was a big seller in Egypt. Cleo was found in her private chambers. As a prisoner she would not have access to snakes, nor would she keep them in her rooms. But a snake is more dramatic because the audience would be more fearful of a dangerous snake than poison. Poison being more passive. 

And now you know the truth of the matter. Until it changes once again. You never know. It just shows the power of the written word, the power of story telling, and how we believe what we read, even if it is fiction.

Here are two of my fictional e-novels at Amazon. Both based on true stories. Perhaps another myth will arise from one of them. With your help of course.

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Yale students want Shakespeare banned

An Ivy League university like Yale should be the epitome of higher learning. Yet in these hallowed halls the ivy is browning as a petition surfaced that demanded the English Department drop Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Wordsworth, John Donne, among others because studying ‘white writers’ creates a ‘hostile environment for people of color.’

Now this could be a prank. The author of the petition is anonymous. This of course means he or she can hide while watching the national media pick up the story, laughing all the way to class. 

But considering the age we live in, a time in which a segment of the population, whose perception of injustice to minorities over centuries is nothing short of umbrageous hypersensitivity, then one can understand there are those who believe this an honest attempt at protest.

What purpose of dropping Shakespeare and other ‘white writers’ from the English curriculum serve? It is illogical, inane, and let’s be honest. It is racist. Racism, after all, is not the sole domain of the white race. It exists within the dark hearts of all races, nationalities, and genders.

It is not as if people of color are ignored at Yale. The most popular course, according to the article and the Fox news interview, is “Race and Gender in American Literature.” Yale also teaches classes on women writers, African-American writers, Asian writers, to name just a few other options.

I am annoyed that I even have to post a blog about a petition that is so outrageously stupid. Even if it is a prank it is stupid. I question whether the originator of the petition is even in the English program. The study of centuries dead white writers has nothing to do with race and everything to do with art. There is not one word, not one scene, not one iota of proof that the writings of these men could create any ‘hostile environment to people of color.’ One might as well argue Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” shows hostility to aliens from other planets.

And nowhere is there an explanation-I repeat-nowhere in the petition is given any explanation as to why or how these writers create a hostile environment. No theory, no premise, no thoughts. Merely unpedantic demagoguery. In other words-bullshit. This is why I think it could be a prank, or a hoax.

If not, it is someone’s ill-intentioned, misinformed, unintellectual, ill thought, distorted thinking-or lack of thinking, misdirected prevarication that serves no purpose for people of any color. If the author of the petition-if that is the word for it-truly believes what he/she wrote, they do not belong at Yale. One must ask why the person is in a higher institution of earning when they show an inability for basic critical thinking. But the person does need to be institutionalized.


Did Shakespeare invent football

         ‘Am I so round with you as you with me, That like a football you do spurn me thus?’ The line comes from Shakespeare’s play Comedy of Errors, Act 1, Scene 2.  And again in King Lear, act 1, scene 4, this insult ‘Nor tripped neither, you base football player.’ 

        The above lines came from my Kindle edition of the complete works of Shakespeare that cost 99 cents. Shakespeare did not of course invent football, as it existed in his time, not the soccer 21st century fans are enamored with though. This ‘football’ according to this website killed more people than swordfights. It was ‘mob’ football and I am assuming played without referees and had no concussion protocol.
        But that is beside the point. According to a children’s book “William Shakespeare & the Globe”, written and illustrated by Aliki , Shakespeare invented the word ‘football’ though I am sure NFL fans believe it was Roger Goodell. It is also claimed in this wonderful book that old Will invented about or around 2,000 words such as bandit, employer, schoolboy, moonbeam, alligator!!!, luggage, eyeball, birth-place, gloomy, blushing, puppy-dog, shudder, fairy land and phrases like ‘every inch a king’, ‘pomp and circumstance’, wild-goose chase’, ‘for goodness sakes’,  ‘sweets to the sweet’,  and with due respect to Charles, ‘what the dickens’. Also puke, hush, and tut, tut.
        I have no intention of researching all the above words and phrases, nor the others listed in the book. I will take Aliki and Scholastic at their word (pun not intended-well maybe), but it does bring up an interesting question. If Will did invent those words, and the audience in the Globe heard those words for the first time, how did they know what they meant. I can see a member of the audience saying in response to alligator ‘what was that he said’ to his companion, much like when I watch a British TV show and they use a word I am unfamiliar with, which is frequent. 
        I don’t really know if Will invented words or was the first to write them down on parchment and use them in public at the Globe, but language evolves like a Darwinian paradigm. There are words and phrases popular in their day that are gone, never used in centuries. I mentioned some of them in a post I previously wrote.
        And we can invent phrases as well. In regards to words and evolving language how about ‘Alas poor Webster, I knew him well  Roget.’ Okay, I am no Shakespeare and you are thinking that my phrase has ‘no rhyme nor reason,’ another Will invention and you are wishing me ‘good riddance,’ yes that phrase too, so I bid adieu.
“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.’ Hamlet, act 3, scene 2. lief means willingly, readily. Who says lief anymore?