It is often stated that it is nearly impossible to tell Shakespeare's point of view or to hear his personal voice behind his characters. While I accept this premise, as one reads more of Shakespeare, one feels that one can locate Shakespeare, but I wonder if this is an illusion of perception. Many commentators hypothesize that certain obscure passages are Shakespeare's personal commentary on the play.

Many scholars tend to agree that Hamlet's voice is similar to Shakespeare's voice. Some critics find Shakespeare's voice in the Sonnets, a point I find unconvincing for several reasons.

I stumbled on the dedication to "The Rape of Lucrece", and like his other dedication, I was surprised to find a nicely formal, but somewhat butt-kissy note to the Earl of Southhampton. I won't quote it in full (the text is readily available.) It is a development of, "The gift is small, the thought is all..."

"..Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater, meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life still lengthened with all happiness.."

My question is, I am trying to remember where the above is echoed in the plays.


1 Answer 1


Even here, Shakespeare eludes us. We learn that he behaves with the proper societal decorum when addressing those of a greater social standing. We see him as a typical man of the English Renaissance. But even here, we could argue that Shakespeare is masked due to the formalities required in such circumstances. Similarly, were one to apply for an NEH grant, one would expect that the language of the request to be more formal. (Perhaps the process could be streamlined so that we could apply via Twitter as in: "Need good dough 4 Big Bird--L8.")

In Twelfth Night, Viola is placed in a several circumstances where she has to address her social superiors, but she is not able to reveal herself. In her address to Olivia, Viola has to present herself with a false and uncomfortable formality that evokes laughter. With Malvolio, one would argue that there isn't much difference between his formality and his real personality. Even at the very end, when the formality is stripped away from Malvolio, we see an unlikable man. Yet, we still feel some sympathy toward him.

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