365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

157. A Wilde court transcript

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I keep mentioning Oscar Wilde when this is supposed to be a Shakespeare blog, but I promise they are connected. Strongly. Wilde so clearly admired Shakespeare (possibly to the point of hero-worship) that it seems fitting to keep mentioning them side-by-side.

Today in my senior seminar on Wilde, we talked about his criminal trials and passed around excerpts of the transcripts. One of the more interesting discoveries we made about the whole thing was how very funny he was the whole time. Not really a good idea when you are the subject of a criminal trial, but certainly in keeping with his reputation. It seems to me that perhaps it was often a defense mechanism rather than simply his nature, but that conversation is for another blog, another time.

He mentioned Shakespeare a number of times during the libel trial. The examples:

W—I think it is perfectly natural for any artist to admire intensely and love a young man.  It is an incident in the life of almost every artist.
C–But let us go over it phrase by phrase.  “I quite admit that I adored you madly.” What do you say to that?  Have you ever adored a young man madly?
W—No, not madly; I prefer love-that is a higher form.
C–Never mind about that.  Let us keep down to the level we are at now?
W—I have never given adoration to anybody except myself. (Loud laughter.)
C–I suppose you think that a very smart thing?
W—Not at all.
C–Then you have never had that feeling?
W—No.  The whole idea was borrowed from Shakespeare, I regret to say—yes, from Shakespeare’s sonnets.
C–I believe you have written an article to show that Shakespeare’s sonnets were suggestive of unnatural vice?
W—On the contrary I have written an article to show that they are not.”  I objected to such a perversion being put upon Shakespeare.

And then later:

C–Why should a man of your age address a boy nearly twenty years younger as “My own boy”?
W—I was fond of him.  I have always been fond of him.
C–Do you adore him?
W—No, but I have always liked him.  I think it is a beautiful letter.  It is a poem.  I was not writing an ordinary letter.  You might as well cross-examine me as to whether King Lear or a sonnet of Shakespeare was proper.
C–Apart from art, Mr. Wilde?
W—I cannot answer apart from art.

And isn’t that just one of the most beautiful answers to a question that an artist can give? “I cannot answer apart from art.” I wonder what Shakespeare would have said if he had been on trial in a similar fashion to this…I have a feeling it would be something to the same effect.


Written by Caroline Mincks

March 7, 2010 at 10:46 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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