If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil'd,
Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss
The second burden of a former child.
O, that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done!
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
O! sure I am, the wits of former days
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.
If there is nothing new under the sun, but that which
Has been before, how are our brains cheated,
Which, toiling to create something new, mistakenly
Brings forth something that already exists
O, that history could go back
Even five hundred years
To show me your picture in some old book,
At any time since thought was first put down in writing!
That I might see what an earlier time would say
To this wonderful beauty of your frame (mind, body, and soul);
Whether we are improved or they were better,
Or whether the cycle of years has yielded no better results.
O, I am sure of this, the wits [talented men] of former times
Have given praise to much worse subjects than this.
Bard Bites ...
In 1609 Thomas Thorpe published Shakespeare's sonnets, no doubt without the author's permission, in quarto format, along with Shakespeare's long poem, The Passionate Pilgrim. The sonnets were dedicated to a W. H., whose identity remains a mystery, although William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, is frequently suggested because Shakespeare's First Folio (1623) was also dedicated to him. Read on...
Anyone involved in the production of plays in Elizabethan England, from the playwright to the theatre owners, knew that the Master of Revels was the man to impress and fear, for he auditioned acting troupes, selected the plays they would perform, and controlled the scenery and costumes to be used in each production. Read on...
Twenty-four of Shakespeare's sonnets are addressed to a woman. We have little information about this woman, except for a description the poet gives of her over the course of the poems. Shakespeare describes her as 'a woman color'd ill', with black eyes and coarse black hair. Thus, she has come to be known as the "dark lady." Find out...
Known to the Elizabethans as ague, Malaria was a common malady spread by the mosquitoes in the marshy Thames. The swampy theatre district of Southwark was always at risk. King James I had it; so too did Shakespeare’s friend, Michael Drayton. Read on...