Shakespeare Replies to Attacks on Theatre – Greg Bell


Methinks you’ll not say I exaggerate
In telling you that history repeats;
Full oft, I used my craft to contemplate
The many ways, o’er centuries, Time eats
Her own. And, certes, Caesar such a case.
The senate stamped him praetor maximus,
Unthinking the Republic to erase,
Yet Ides of March proved Time more ravenous:
Brought down decorum, brought the Republic down,
Down forum, down O magister divine!
And now, I hear some populi do frown
Upon the playing of these plays of mine.
The knife twists in my heart, Et tu, Brute?
Knew ye not from the start? ‘Twas but a play!


Alas, diseaséd body politic,
What conq’ring worm defeats thee in thy prime,
What curséd hand; and by what lunatic
Desire, by what new all devouring crime
Must thou now be beset? Oh, can it be
The caterpillar of the commonwealth,
With avarice, hath burrowed into thee
And, never sated, robbed thee of thy health?
Wise governance is put to exile hence,
The fattened worm feeds yet upon thy youth,
The lackeys of the state atop the fence
To gawp, like crows, and mock the saddened truth:
O comic accident, O irony —
They threaten those who play my tragedy!


Grammercies, my friends, my lovers and
Mine enemies, that you assail me thus,
For that, from Lethe’s sleepy mists, you sent
Me reeling through obscurity to dust
The cobwebs from my mind, still fevered now
With visions old of what we yet may be.
(That man, proud man, should need be tutored how
His end could be the end of tyranny!)
O send me forth, if you may conjure still,
If you would know the meaning of my verse,
And in our hallowed emptiness we’ll fill
The cup whose draught can ignorance reverse:
Fill then the cup with all humility
That, drinking deep, restores humanity.

Greg Bell writes because he must. A critical illness finally roused him to publish, 2013. He’s since placed work in literary journals & anthologies and was 2019 recipient of the Kowit Poetry Prize. He’s author of hybrid poetry collection ‘Looking for Will: My Bardic Quest with Shakespeare’ (Ion Drive Publishing, 2015) and two award-winning plays. He leads Green Poets Workshop at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, CA.

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