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A periodical from the 1960s in the home of the poet Carl Sandburg.

A periodical from the 1960s in the home of the poet Carl Sandburg.

… after 452 years.

There is an anecdote I’ve encountered in my study of Will Shakespeare, his life, his work, his time.  Some court retainer for James I complained that when sent out to recruit some players, perhaps a playwright, for some entertainment at court he could find no one.  They were supremely unavailable.

I notice, too, that for a number of years of Will Shakespeare’s public career he lived across town from the theatre.

Together these suggest to me a rather understandable desire to minimize as much as possible the disruption of his creative process.

No matter the medium – a play, a painting, a sculpture, a symphony, a piece of jewelry, a computer program, or any of an infinite number of creations – interruptions to the creative process are unwelcome, sometimes extremely so.

Why take this process so seriously?

Well, in the first place, creativity is a spiritual exercise, an exercise in manifesting some aspect of the Universal soul, something not immediately perceptible to our senses.

Interruptions via the senses pull the creative from the depths of exploration, analysis, and planning.  They shock the mind into temporary paralysis.

Secondly, interruptions impede not only the flow of the spiritual exercise.  They impede the flow of the material manifestation, even that of economic enterprise.  This is the inverse of “As above, So below.”  The disruption that occurs in the depth of the spiritual exercise is translated into disruption at the material level, of which the economic enterprise is part.

To judge from the success of his career at the time and the success of his work these centuries since, Will Shakespeare took very good care in the development of his material.  To my mind, that means he was protective of his creativity, his spiritual exercise.

This informs, I believe, one of several interpretations I see in the lines from “Richard III” (I.i.20-22) about being sent before time “Into this breathing world, scarce half made up, And that so lamely and unfashionable…”

IMGP0843The creative spirit builds a worthy body of work on a well-considered, well-crafted foundation attained by putting the best, not the lamest, foot forward.

Will Shakespeare’s care and attention to his work provided handsomely for himself and his family.  It is also noteworthy that his work was a key factor in the success of the Globe Theatre, the business model for which was ground-breaking for the time.

He and his colleagues in the company owned shares in the theatre enterprise.  Each man’s work reflected up the others’.  Each man had significant motivation to know the business, grow the business, and put forth his best.  [Brad Berens discusses Shakespeare’s business acumen in this TEDx talk.]

From this distance the legacy of Will Shakespeare’s artistry and business acumen have proven to be worthy assets in the careers of many creatives and academics these 400-plus years.  As Dame Judi Dench has said, “Shakespeare is the man who pays the rent.”  He keeps the lights on, so to speak.

Quite an accomplishment after 452 years.


Barbara Butler McCoy, c. 2016, text and photos