Back with a Vengeance

Hello, everyone! I’m back from a lovely one-week vacation to the South of our great land where I was able to accomplish several things (not the least of which being visiting my lovely little sister, and gallivanting around her place of employment… Disney. Yes, I know,

While I was in Disney this might have happened....

While I was in Disney this might have happened….

life is hard when you’re a Rosvally).

Today, I was back in the saddle hitting the ground running. I’m honored to be a Fellow at the Tufts Graduate Institute For Teaching program this summer and, as such, am participating in twelve seminars designed to help improve my skills as a teacher. I’m learning a lot already (today was the first day) and am overjoyed to be meeting and interacting with other graduate students from (gasp) different departments. It’s nice to have somewhere to go first thing in the morning; this kind of structure really kicks off the day right and is something that I’ve been missing in recent semesters due to coursework having come to a close. Dissertation work can be extremely isolating, and this Institute is really the perfect combination of socialization, enrichment, professional development, and personal accountability for me at this point in my graduate career.

As part of seminar this morning, one of our glorious presenters gave us a sheet of quotations about war meant to spark conversation. None of them were accredited (in an effort not to bias us) but after the exercise was over, he went down the list and let us know where each had originated. I was perplexed when he reached one axiom that we’ve probably all heard before: “all is fair in love and war”. The presenter attributed it to Shakespeare and then admitted that it’s been said by people ad infinitum the world over since the dawn of time and moved on.

I was dubious about accrediting this quotation to my man Will because, first thing’s first, the syntax really doesn’t scream “Bard” to me. Secondly, and this is where things get hazy, I wasn’t recalling it from any of the plays off the top of my head (this is often a good source of information but not necessarily definitive; while I can probably quote more than is healthy for a human being, I’m not going to claim an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire canon…yet).

The attribution was really a minor point and I didn’t want to hang the class up with something completely tangential to what we were actually talking about. However, the factoid kept wheedling me after we left seminar (so much so that I was inclined to look it up on my own and determine where this famous phrase came from).

Sure enough, I was right. It’s not a Willism. The first round of answers I got were mixed; some attributing it to English novelist and playwright John Lyly and some to English novelist Francis Edward Smedley.

Further investigation proved that both of these answer are, after a fashion, correct. The Lyly derivation is actually a paraphrase of a line from Lyly’s 1579 novel, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit. Lyly actually wrote: “the rules of fair play do not apply in love and war” (you can see where the paraphrase is a bit more elegant for today’s syntax).

pretty flowering tree I found on campus today

pretty flowering tree I found on campus today

Which left the Smedley question. How did he get mixed up in this? I looked into things a bit more and discovered that, in fact, the first appearance of the quote as-is was in the 1850 novel Frank Fairleigh by Francis Edward Smedley (who apparently, in addition to one of the funniest names in literary history, also had a flare for the axiomatic).

Neither of these people are Shakespeare (though, funny enough, Lyly is noted for having written pretty copiously for the child companies, popular amongst upper class Elizabethan audiences and notorious for “stealing” audience members from the adult companies such as Will’s). So there you go! While it’s often a safe bet to attribution quotable quotes to Will, it’s never a sure-fire thing (as proven by this, your little bit of pop up dramaturgy for today). I hope that your week is off to an incredible start! Mine certainly is.


It’s difficult to know what to say in the wake of tragedy.  This kind of thing effects different people in different ways and, not being someone gifted/cursed with a great deal of empathy, it’s double difficult for me to come to any conclusion about something appropriate to relate.

The last lines of Shakespeare’s tragedies are generally attempts by his very human characters to break the impossible tension of the play’s events.  Often these words are uttered over a stage strewn with corpses; the trail of ruin that true tragedy leaves in its wake.

Instead of trying to come up with something to say myself, I thought I’d take a moment to survey these lines for you in hopes that they will provide something more profound than any axiom I could utter.

Stay safe, everyone.

“My rage is gone;
And I am struck with sorrow. Take him up.
Help, three o’ the chiefest soldiers; I’ll be one.
Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully:
Trail your steel pikes. Though in this city he
Hath widow’d and unchilded many a one,
Which to this hour bewail the injury,
Yet he shall have a noble memory. Assist.” –Aufidius, Coriolanus, 5.6

Aufidius, seeing Coriolanus dead, feels sorrow for his nemesis.  His tenderness towards Coriolanus and willingness to honor his mortal enemy in death shows a true humanity to Aufidius; the man, not the soldier, closes this show.

“Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royally: and, for his passage,
The soldiers’ music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.” –Fortinbras, Hamlet, 5.2

This one has given me particular cause for ire over the years due to directors purposefully misinterpreting it to mean “take Horatio out back and shoot him”.  I’ve already expounded upon why this is a bad idea so I don’t feel the need to hammer it home here.

“The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.” – Albany, King Lear, 5.3

Perhaps the most profound of the end-tags; I’ve always had a special fondness for this one since it can apply to not just a tragedy, but also to many other aspects of life when politics is involved.  For example: it was an utterance first delivered me by a professor when we were in conference before a talkback with an important director whose work we had just seen.

“Gratiano, keep the house,
And seize upon the fortunes of the Moor,
For they succeed on you. To you, lord governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain;
The time, the place, the torture: O, enforce it!
Myself will straight aboard: and to the state
This heavy act with heavy heart relate.” – Lodovico, Othello, 5.2

Lodovico’s instinct to take charge of the situation and his burden to inform the people of what has transpired is a burden that many leaders will feel during such times of crisis.  Having to stay strong for other people makes us strong within ourselves.  Lodovico, rather than break down completely, takes it upon himself to be a pillar for the people.

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” – Prince, Romeo and Juliet, 5.3

Perhaps one of the most famous last lines, owing perhaps to the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet portion of Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr [abrgd]…. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it.

My most profound sympathies go out to the people effected by yesterday’s events.  Stay strong, Boston.