Collected Stories « PREV | NEXT »: Collected Stories

June 13, 2011

What a happy tangle the Web doth weave

Before You Know It Crop.jpgOn Sunday, as Mark Rylance accepted a Tony Award for his amazing work in Jez Butterworth's riotous dark epic "Jerusalem," he launched into a prose poem from Minnesota-based Louis Jenkins, who has been frequently featured in Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" and "Prairie Home Companion."
 
Rylance also recited Jenkins when he won his first Tony in 2008, so I went in search of more about the poet. I found an excellent selective sampling here. Today many bloggers are linking to Jenkins' own website, where you can hear the poet reading these lines that Rylance made suddenly famous:

Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, "Say, I want to try that." Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side."

Much as I once loved to wander the stacks of the great libraries of my school days, these late-night Internet searches are downright addictive. When one is in a certain mood, the straight-line Q followed by its A is not the thing. Free roaming is, the more meandering the better.

To wit, Sunday's NYT op-ed piece by Maureen Dowd on the "new" Newt Gingrich, wife-doter, begins thus: "Newt Gingrich used to get in trouble for cheating on wives and dumping them. Now he's notorious for being uxorious." 

She has used the word "uxorious" before, so I thought I'd look up its etymology (the root is Latin for wife). Did Shakespeare employ it? Concordance said no. But in at least one of the online dictionaries, "uxorious" was allied with "wittol"  -- a cuckold who puts up with it --  and "wittol" I did remember from Shakespeare. The suspicious Master Ford, in "The Merry Wives of Windsor," shouts out in a jealous rage: "Cuckold! Wittol! Cuckold" -- followed by something about the devil. 

I did a quick Google search for the rest of Ford's line, but I didn't do it correctly. "Uxorious" was still in the search field along with "wittol."

Shakespeare.pngHappy accident! Up popped a play, written in 1921 -- "Shakespeare, a play in five episodes," by Harold Frederick Rubinstein (English solicitor and playwright) and Clifford Bax (poet, lyricist, playwright, translator, and brother of the composer Arnold Bax) -- which sets forth a hypothetical picture of the Bard's life from his early infatuation with the Dark Lady to a bitter, burned-out, cynical end.  

One of the lines contains the exact phrase "uxorious wittol." It occurs near the end of the play -- inset at right, click to enlarge -- when Shakespeare is reciting a hilarious rant that constitutes his final will and testament to his bewildered landlady. It includes these lines: "...to every woman I would leave six lovers for the six days of the week, and for Sundays a rich and uxorious wittol; to every man, the ability to push, lie, pander and oppress, for by these he shall climb to honour."  

Almost worthy of the Bard himself.
June 13, 2011 9:01 AM | | Comments (0)

Leave a comment

















Archives

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


About

    ARTicles ARTicles is a project of 
    the National Arts Journalism Program, an association of some 500 journalists in the United States. Our group blog is a place for arts and cultural journalists to share ideas and information, to celebrate what we do, and to make the case for its continuing value. ARTicles is edited by Laura Collins-Hughes. To contact her, click here.
    more

    ARTicles Bloggers Meet our bloggers: Sasha Anawalt, MJ Andersen, Alicia Anstead, Laura Bleiberg, Larry Blumenfeld, Jeanne Carstensen, Robert Christgau, Laura Collins-Hughes, Thomas Conner, Lily Tung Crystal, Richard Goldstein, Patti Hartigan, Glenn Kenny, Wendy Lesser, Ruth Lopez, Nancy Malitz, Douglas McLennan, Tom Moon, Abe Peck, Peter Plagens, John Rockwell, Werner Trieschmann, Lesley Valdes and Douglas Wolk. more

    NAJP NAJP is America's largest organization dedicated to the advancement of arts and cultural journalism. The NAJP has produced research, publications and discussions and works to bring together journalists, artists, news executives, cultural organization administrators, funders and others concerned with arts and culture in America today. more

    Join NAJP Join America's largest organization of arts journalists. Here's how more

see all archives

Contact: articles@najp.org