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Leonard Digges' Dedicatory verse about Shakespeare Options
flylikeeagle
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 4:26:50 AM

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I need help with simplifying the meaning of this verse to modern English, PLEASE:

Reader his Workes (for to contrive a Play:
To him twas none) the patterne of all wit,
Art without Art unparalelld as yet.
Next Nature only helpt him, for look through
This whole Booke, thou shalt find he doth not borrow,
One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate,
Nor once from vulgar Languages Translate,
Nor Plagiari-like from others gleane,
Nor begges he from each witty friend a Scene
To piece his Acts with; all that he doth write,
Is pure his owne, plot, language exquisite.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 5:48:22 AM

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Wow - you're getting into some classic old writings here!

I'll try - though it's probably really a matter of "ignore all the inflections and grammar, and then try to put it back together". I may not get it right.

I think that he is using a LOT of word-play - using 'work' to mean two different things at the same time, and using 'art' as a verb and a noun in different phrases at the same time - very clever writing.

Reader his Workes (for to contrive a Play:
To him twas none) the patterne of all wit,
Art without Art unparalelld as yet.

I think this is something like:
"Reader" (just addressing you the person reading).
His works (writings) are the epitome (pattern) of all wit (humour) and Art.
For him, writing a play was not work.
His works are (art) unparalleled yet. No-one has ever been such a good writer.
Reader, his works (for him, writing a play was not work) are the epitome of wit and art, and are unparalleled yet.

Next Nature only helpt him, for look through
This whole Booke, thou shalt find he doth not borrow,
One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate,
Nor once from vulgar Languages Translate,
Nor Plagiari-like from others gleane,
Nor begges he from each witty friend a Scene
To piece his Acts with; all that he doth write,
Is pure his owne, plot, language exquisite.

I would have preferred to break it down, but it's one long sentence.
By way of introduction, I should note that Digges and his contemporaries (Johnson, Blount and so on) were 'notorious' translators - Digges was personally famous for his translations from Spanish and Latin.
He says that only Nature (not other writers or other languages) helped Shakespeare.
Just look through this whole book (I think this is the dedication page of the first folio of Shakespeare - published by Blount) and you'll find he doesn't borrow any Greek or Latin phrases, and doesn't translate any works from other languages.
He doesn't even 'kidnap' ideas from others and write his own versions of their ideas.
He doesn't 'piece together' a new play from various scenes from other plays.
Everything he writes is fully his own - plot and exquisite language.
Next, only Nature helped him. Just look through this whole book, and you'll find he doesn't borrow one phrase from Greek, nor imitate Latin.
He doesn't translate from other languages or steal others' works in acts of plagiarism.
Nor does he beg a scene from each witty friend to piece them together into an Act.
All that he writes is purely his own - plot, exquisite language, everything.
flylikeeagle
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 7:30:18 AM

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Thank you so much. I really appreciate your reply.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 8:16:52 AM

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That is complete tripe, right? He took some stories that had been theatrical fodder for years - he just wrote and staged them better.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 9:48:25 AM

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Oh yeah - he was a relation of Shakespeare's publisher, and was acting as "PR Man".

Romeo and Juliet was a re-telling of Tristan & Yseult and probably many other similar stories previously.
Many of the 'King' plays (from Julius Caesar up to Henry V) had already been published or played before, but never so famously.
Romany
Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:40:24 PM
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

Shakespeare's best friend was his copy of Boccaccio's Decameron, from which he took so many stories and the plots, as well as ideas for his longer poems. And yes, stories like The Scottish Play had been around for years.

But to the Early Modern mind this wasn't plagiarism; that's what plays were - familiar stories re-told. The more familiar the story, the larger the crowds.

It was for this reason that the female playwrights who sprang up in Charles IInd's reign were laughed at and derided as mad: - their plays were completely original and came straight from the imagination - which rendered them "fevered phantasies"!

In fact these outporings of overheated women depicted a World Upside Down (Early Modern man's constant fear!) with women leaders, and all women knowing how to read and write, and women choosing to live in all-female environments where they could discourse upon Science or Rhetoric or any of those things no woman born could ever master!

It was also these women playwrights and writers who were the ones to write alone by the light of a guttering candle - because it was considered unwomanly to write anything other than invitations. While Shakespeare and Marlowe and Johnson et al. would sit in taverns or backstage - using someone else's candles - accepting help or ideas or suggestions from all who sat down with them. This wouldn't be considered cheating either - it was just the way a new play got written every week!
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 1:16:53 PM

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Ah, but don't forget what happens if women try to learn too much! Their brains are not designed that way . . .Whistle Whistle

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