Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Impostor Syndrome

Do you know what impostor syndrome is? You can probably guess. It's that feeling you get when you have every right to claim some level of authority on a subject (say, almost ten years of posting almost three thousand articles) and yet you can't shake the nagging feeling that every time you say something, someone is going to pop up and say, "No, you're wrong! You don't know anything, what makes you think you have the right to talk about this subject?" Maybe you've spent your whole life surrounded by people who listen to you and say, "Wow, I didn't know that," and ask you questions about your chosen subject, to which you happily provide answers. All the while you're thinking, "Surely they're about to tell me that everything I've just said is wrong."

I struggle with this like you wouldn't believe. When I originally started this site I believed that I'd either (a) attract a group of people who knew about as much as I did about the subject, and we'd learn from each other, or (b) attract a group of people who didn't know much, who would learn from me.  What I got was (c) well-learned people who do Shakespeare for a living, who have been schooling me ever since.

But knowledge is a funny thing. One day you don't have it. And you realize you don't have it (you know what you don't know) because someone gives it to you.  Which US president visited Shakespeare's birthplace and wrote in his letters that he felt the fee they charged was outrageous?  Have no idea?  Thomas Jefferson. Congratulations, now you know. If you didn't really care, you'll probably forget it after you finish reading this post. But if you're interested in the subject and hear it repeatedly, you'll realize that you actually remember it now. What's the difference between what you know and what you remember?  Not much.  If you remember it, you know it. (I'm not talking about remembering an incorrect fact, of course.  I'm talking about remembering information where previously there was none.)

I often forget what I know. I'll stumble across a "new" fact, only to later discover that it was new to me three years ago when I first blogged about it. I hate that. Makes me feel like my knowledge of the subject is not growing, and will remain forever at its plateau. Which, in turn, makes me always think I know about as much as I knew ten years ago.

I had occasion recently to document what I know about Shakespeare.  Open new document, create new list, start brain dumping. A few hundred bullet points later I start to think, "Dang, that's a bigger list than I thought." My confidence inches up just an eentsy bit.  Who said plateau?

I think that the key to defeating impostor syndrome is to be aware of your own limitations. Someone can know more than you, without making your knowledge wrong.  Don't think of it as being corrected, think of it as becoming more informed on the subject.  That's what I've been doing for ten years now. Only now am I beginning to get comfortable with the idea that I can actually converse on this subject, and not just be the guy waiting for someone to tell me I don't know anything.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


No, seriously.  I'm talking about the 1980's sitcom, Cheers, set in Boston's Bull & Finch Pub. When I'm bored and need sound in the background I'll often turn on Netflix to stream old sitcoms like this, and earlier today we heard the Cheers theme song on the radio.

Anyway, I'm watching the pilot when Diane (eventually the love interest) comes in with her current fiance, Professor Sumner Sloan, and they are discussing how they got engaged.  Sumner paraphrases whatever he might have said and Diane corrects him, saying, "Actually, what he said was 'Come with me and be my love, and we will some new pleasure prove.'"

"Ooo!  Shakespeare!"  said I.

"Donne," said Diane.

"WTF?" quoth I.

"I kinda figured you were done when you stopped talking," says Sam the bartender (or some other pun on the word Donne, I stopped paying attention after the Shakespeare drive-by).

I wondered for a moment if they said Donne just for the joke.  I know this is Shakespeare, I have a CD ( When Love Speaks ) with Annie Lennox singing it. To the Google!

Oh look, we're both right.

The line definitely appears in The Passionate Shepherd To His Love, which is credited to Marlowe. And it's most definitely in John Donne's The Bait   (both available at the link above). Slight textual variation, Donne's line is in fact "some pleasure" while Marlowe went with "all the pleasures". Marlowe actually came first, but Diane is quoting Donne's version.

But what of Shakespeare?

This line comes from the fifth verse of Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music, most of which (such as this entry) are incorrectly attributed to Shakespeare.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Maybe His Face Is On The Bus

Ok, this probably doesn't deserve a blog post of its own but I think it's hysterical, it wouldn't fit on Twitter, and I block Facebook when I'm trying to get work done (even if, as now, that work is Shakespeare research).

I found the following conclusion on a page of facts about our dear Shakespeare:
William Shakespeare is one of the most identifiable icons of England. Others include members of England’s Royal family, Westminister Abbey, Big Ben, and red double-decker buses.
(Spelling is as I found it.)

I'm glad to see the world's greatest poet and playwright made the top five!  The mind boggles at the logic that went into choosing that particular list.  The Queen? Princess Diana?  William and Kate?  Nah, just make "members of the Royal family" one item.  But then we only have four items, and it should really be five.  I know, how about those big double-decker busses!

One of, indeed.


Ok, I'm going back to work now. Lunch break over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Shakespeare on the Road

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is hitting the road! In celebration of Shakespeare's 450th birthday they've come over to the United States with plans to sit in on 14 different Shakespeare festivals over the summer.

In my neck of the woods they'll be coming to Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass on August 17.  Of course I've already got plans that weekend :(. Why can't I learn about these things months in advance?  And why can't they come into Boston instead? I'm 20 minutes from Boston, I'm over 2 hours from Lenox!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Orange Is The New Shakespeare?

I'm a big fan of Netflix's original series, both House of Cards and Orange is the new Black. Kevin Spacey, star of the former, has been on all the talk shows saying how it is basically Richard III. Well, more to the point how he based his character on R3.

So when I saw this piece on why you need to read Shakespeare to understand Orange Is The New Black (or OITNB for short) new (second) season, I was all over it.  The idea put forth (using Macbeth as an example) is that in Shakespeare's world, there is a natural order to things. When something comes in to disrupt that natural order, there is chaos while the world attempts to correct itself and restore order.  That is season 2 in a nutshell, and I agree completely with the article's argument.

WARNING - that article is 100% spoilers. You'd better finish season 2 before you read it.