Reading Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being by Ted Hughes. It is another examples of me reaping the rewards of Beth’s curiosity, since she combs thru the shelves at bookstores whereas I tend to investigate much more narrowly. It is proving to be an enjoyable read.
I should say that I have not read much of anything by Hughes, only know some of his rep, including a bare modicum of his life with Sylvia Plath. Whatever that relationship was like, it has been transmogrified into legend at this point. Which is to say clouds, mist, haze, and what all. I am glad only a little of that tinges my reading of this book.
I like that this book is scholarly but not academic, if I can define academic to mean frozen within the confines of a dictated discourse. There is a certain type of academic writing that is coded for those between the ivy walls. I think Hughes escapes that limitation.
Hughes’ reading focuses on the mythic element of Shakespeare, and he admits to the influence of Robert Graves and The White Goddess. I appreciate WG, tho cognizant of Graves’ loopiness. Graves is not afraid of making desperate extrapolations, ones that I would not take at face value, but I appreciate the energy inspiring them. Somewhere I read his interpretation of the song “Foggy Foggy Dew”. With wild surmise he decides that the title comes from the Gaelic for Dark Lady or something near, and from that he produces the conjecture--the dark suggesting the nun’s veils--that the song is about a nun’s sexual dalliance. Weeeell, I dunno, as Chico would say.
Hughes keeps a stricter path, with a stringent focus on the theme he has in mind. I shall read “Venus and Adonis”, which I never felt compelled to do, and reread “Rape of Lucrece” because Hughes subtly place these poems within the larger context of Shakespeare’s oeuvre.
I am only at Chapter 3, and progress perforce will be slow, but it feels good to take a fresh look. It is a fat book, rich with implication.