In Memoriam, W.S.

Most righteous, good, and well-intentioned peers,
I write these lines to bury Shakespeare—not
To praise him—and here prove the reason dear,
Unhallowed scriptures now are cast as naught.
To read or not to read his treasured plays?
On “Not” you now insist, and by your leave,
I’ll list his crimes, the Bard’s most heinous ways:
That Jews and Christian kings feel want, taste grief,
When pricked do bleed, how so-called shrews untamed
Live free, of brave, new worlds where mercy is
Not strained, of plays in plays, what’s in a name,
On true love’s course, and deaths bought with a kiss.
For all these mighty wrongs and more, be gone!
Fie, poor Bill! We’ve known you well too long.



Jake Murel is a PhD Candidate in Boston, MA. His poetry has previously appeared in The Lyric and Better Than Starbucks, among other poetry journals.

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16 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Jake, I love this! And don’t think it isn’t coming, because it is.
    One thing only bothers me – the last line. I really do not like criticizing the work of others, but that last line has an irritating quality that might easily made to flow better. Rather than just a single “fie”, why not a double “fie”, or even an “Oh, fie”?
    I only suggest that you consider it.
    Love the poem.

  2. Margaret Coats

    Jake, this is a superb performance of Shakespeare, with about 15 quotes I recognize! It reads beautifully, too. I can only echo Sally above, to say that a double “fie” beginning the last line would be most appropriate. Bravo for some brave work!

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      I, too, enjoyed the Shakespeare quotes, Mr. Murel. And it may that before too long, quotes (judiciously sifted by you know who) will be all we see of the bard.
      But I’m also confused by the responses of Mses Cook and Coats. It seems to me your trochaic final line was a quite deliberate, as well as an effective choice, highlighting the sarcastic message it carries. (Cf. the last line in Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” included in Mr. Sedia’s essay on Frost posted today on this site). Casually dropping a trochaic line or 2 into an iambic context is seen regularly in postings here (as is the tactic of starting an otherwise iambic line with 2 unaccented syllables). No one, that I am aware, has complained before, but I will now admit to being momentarily thrown by this practice. It may be that I am simply too unread to make the adjustment quickly. Comments, anyone?

      • Margaret Coats

        Sally made a suggestion because she thought the final line didn’t flow well, but had an irritating quality. I agree that the flow changes sharply. The final line has a coughingly slow start that gives the speaker an oddly fatigued voice (following his emphatic end to line 13), and I said that a double “fie” would be appropriate.

        This has nothing to do with a trochaic line or a trochaic substitution. The final line here is clearly iambic, and the first foot (the single word “fie”) can be called either a headless iamb or a tailless trochee, but in an iambic line, “headless iamb” is the better name. “Fie, fie,” with both words accented would be a spondaic foot substituted for this headless iamb. In my opinion, this enables the speaker to conclude his indictment of Shakespeare with energy. While the message of the poem may be sarcastic, I would say its speaker needs to keep up his tone for an effective finish.

        And I believe such little suggestions are not so rare in SCP comments as to be surprising. Nor are disagreements such as yours, Julian! As always, the poet takes both into consideration.

      • Margaret Coats

        The “Oh, fie” suggested by Sally, and the “Alas” suggested by Paul Freeman, are iambic feet that simply regularize the iambic pentameter line.

  3. Paul Freeman

    Or an ‘Alas!’

    Nicely done, Jake.

    For never was a library more filled with woe
    than when William Shakespeare had to go.

    • Paul Freeman

      While I remember, in Fahrenheit 451, which I re-read a couple of months back (a still from the series illustrates recent thread), one of the main protagonists points out that Shakespeare’s plays can be read as one-page digests in a book claiming ‘now you can read all the classics: keep up with your neighbours.’

      I suppose this is the ultimate dumbing-down / cancelling.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Shakespeare is specifically hated by our liberal-left nomenklatura for the plays “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” But he is more generally loathed for his unquestioning acceptance of fixed social hierarchy, Christian moral values, martial valor, and patriarchal authority.

    A good deal of contemporary scholarship on Shakespeare is a convoluted and desperate attempt to find something “modern” or “revolutionary” or “subversive” in his work, and to trumpet it as “the real Shakespeare.” (The left believes in “creating new knowledge” for social ends.) I once had a supervisor at a school who was writing his dissertation on Shakespeare’s support for “political democracy.” I made the mistake of laughing out loud when he described his thesis to me.

    Here’s a telling fact that everyone should remember: The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (who was a passionate Fabian socialist, feminist, liberal imperialist, anti-monarchist, and an open defender of terrorists) HATED Shakespeare intensely. He foamed at the mouth when speaking of the man, insisting that he was worthless and unimportant writer.

    One playwright’s envy of another? No, not at all. Shaw hated Shakespeare because the older writer did not write anything in support of social change or political revolution, but instead accepted and enjoyed the world that he lived in. For the left, this is the ultimate crime that a writer can commit.

    • Paul Freeman

      I first read The Merchant of Venice in pre-widespread internet days on a remote gold mine in Zimbabwe. My initial take was that Shakespeare was pointing out that Bassanio was part of a worthless social elite (plus obsequious hangers on) who had frittered away his fortune and therefore had to ‘debase’ himself by borrowing money from a hard-working Venetian. On balance, I had more sympathy with Shylock, who lost the money he lent, and lost his less than grateful daughter, than I did with a waster like Bassanio.

      Then Sparks Notes put me right.

  5. Norma Okun

    It is easier to sneer than it is to revere someone better in showing good will is a winner. Each comedy and tragedy showed good triumphs over bad. Facts shown poetically. That’s what Shakespeare means to me.

  6. Julian D. Woodruff

    In reply to Margaret, above: I agree, the so-called headless iamb (if it’s a 1-syllable foot, couldn’t we just call it a spondee?) at the start of the last line of the poem changes the flow. I suppose that is why I thought it rhetorically effective. If the start of line is slow, it’s a kind of emphasis comparable to the German practice of increasing the spacing of letters for emphasis rather than using italics, at least with Fraktur). I’m not fixing to drop a “rage” from “Do not go gentle,” but the single “Fie” here is arresting, especially with its strong vowel. (Mr. Freeman’s “Alas” would provide an amusing allusion, but I’m afraid it deflates slightly the outrage Mr. Murel expresses.)

    • Margaret Coats

      A spondee is a metrical foot with two stresses and no unstressed syllables (such as “Fie, fie” or “Rage, rage” in your allusion to Dylan Thomas). “Fie” alone cannot be a spondee because it has only one stress.

      To describe a metrical foot with only one stressed syllable, we use “iamb” or “trochee” because these each have a single stressed syllable–but we must qualify these terms. If an iamb loses the unstressed syllable that heads it off, it becomes a headless iamb. If a trochee loses the unstressed syllable that follows or tails its stressed syllable, it is a tailless trochee.

      I’m glad you think the single “Fie” in Mr. Murel’s poem is arresting. I agree; it stops the iambic music long enough for the speaker to cough (just as a singer might take advantage of a musical quarter-rest to clear the throat). This cough deflates him as much as Mr. Freeman’s “Alas” would do. And he does not revive his energy after the cough, but presents the least impressive of the charges against Shakespeare: the Bard has been required reading for too long, and it’s time for a change. Now those who consider Shakespeare a racist, sexist, authoritarian xenophobe may agree, but they must be disappointed with such a weak closing argument.

      Mr. Murel takes a risk here. His final line is secretly effective if and only if readers sympathetic to Shakespeare recall his speaker’s self-identification (lines 2 and 3) as Mark Antony from the play Julius Caesar. Antony, who is the murdered Caesar’s friend, is allowed by Caesar’s assassins to deliver a speech, but they are in control and he must not offend them. Still, Antony does his best to renew the affection of the crowd for Caesar.

      Perhaps Mr. Murel is something similar here. Instead of energy, he may want a softened resolution of the sonnet’s music at its end. Those who secretly love Shakespeare will recognize a potential leader in any possible future conflict between Shakespeare lovers and Shakespeare haters. If this is Murel’s intent, he is uses this last line to indicate an awareness that battle lines are already drawn and war is imminent.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        I don’t know how I got it into my head that a spondee was a single syllable. Thank you for the correction, Margaret.

  7. C.B. Anderson

    Your poem stands strong, Jake, with or without the conflicting criticism. You said what you meant to say, and you said it well. Nothing more can be asked of you.

  8. Sally Cook

    What Margaret said, several times over. I too admire the poem; I only wanted it to be better.
    This is precisely why I dislike critical analysis. To me a poem is like a river and “flows along . forever, with trees on either side.”

  9. Dave Whippman

    Well written, and all too timely. I’m not sure how far the “cancel culture” has gone in the USA, but here in the UK, students banned a poem of Kipling’s from a university foyer because they deemed him racist. Shakespeare will be in their sights sooner or later.


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