When my husband and I were first married and combining the contents of our two apartments into one unit called "ours," we weren't surprised to find we had to deal with a LOT of books. But what did surprise us was (a) there were no duplicates and (b) He had nothing before 1900, and I had nothing after 1900. How odd, especially as on our first date we realized that we both had the same favorite short story, James Joyce's "The Dead."
My husband, aka as Philip Schaefer, is a retired lawyer and he's been writing an amazing blog for almost nine years now, commenting on such a variety of things he's interested in that it has become an fascinatingly detailed portrait of his inner life. In a way, this is the book that is absolutely perfect for him to write and to have written. It is large. It contains multitudes, as they say. (philipschaefer.com)
Right now he's interested in The Sonnet Project. (You'd have to go to his blog to see its exact title, but that's how I think of it.) Each sonnet by Shakespeare is filmed in a location in New York City that seems to fit the "story" of that sonnet, and the sonnet is read/acted out by actors, as if they're are doing a short play. I think the general concept is brilliant. Some of the actors are more successful than others, of course. And the underlying concepts are pulled off to a greater or lesser degree from sonnet to sonnet. But all of them become fresh and contemporary, in our current New York City, with the voices of young people, both men and women, bringing the sonnets into live performance.
Now, here's the irony. Phil seems to be convinced that this is the way to look at the sonnets, almost like the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning. They are little plays. They have nothing to do with the poet's life. He's trying out situations and working all the variations. In a way, though Phil might not say this, Shakespeare is. a musician trying out riffs. Meanwhile, back at home--no longer our darling little apartment in New York, but our home in the suburbs--I'm working on my third play about Shakespeare. And I'm handling the sonnets in the most traditional way possible. Shakespeare, writing about the darling, well-born young man, the Dark Lady, the whole nine yards.
The whole issue of highly romanticized love between men which was part of the Elizabethan culture (and never has to be defined, explained, or sensationalized) works for this play I'm writing. It is part of its emotional charge. And it's the part of the sonnet tradition that fits this play. My husband understands, I hope.