Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Can Men Write Romance?

  Image credit: Fruit Tart by lsantilli / 123RF Stock Photo

Okay, here's the deal. Today is my birthday. Since my birthday is just two days removed from that of my favorite author, I decided to do a little homage to the man who wrote romance at its best.

Grab yourself a slice of cake, and enjoy a few sweet lines compliments of Lily.

Can men write romance? Recently, I encountered this question on a writer's forum. It is a valid question, as often we characterize men as being only interested in writing or reading war stories, thrillers, shoot-em-up spy classics and sex stories. 

Well, this week, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the above question, and also thinking and hearing about a favorite author of mine; William Shakespeare.  Yes, it was his birthday on April 23rd, just two days before mine, and all week the public radio station has been doing trivia on him, quoting him, and generally discussing Mr. Shakespeare's works. So, it seems fated that I post yet another discussion about William Shakespeare in answer to the above question. Last week, I wrote about the timelessness of his tragic play, Romeo and Juliet, and it's many theatrical incarnations. This week I decided to write a little about Shakespeare's other romantic writings. As I absolutely love Shakespeare's works, I'm doing this on my birthday as a present to myself.

But in case you've never, ever read a snitch of Shakespeare, dear romance reader, let me share some wonderful, swoon worthy snippets with you from this MAN who wrote plays and poetry back in the 16th century.

My favorite sonnet by the bard is Sonnet 116.  It explores the beauty and constancy of true love. 
Here it is, the whole delightful cake for you to savor: 

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
which alters when its alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh No! It is an ever fixed mark, 
That looks on Tempests and is never shaken:
It is the Star to every wandering bark, 
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love's not Time's fool, though Rosy Lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle's compass come: 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of Doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved, 
I never writ, and no man ever loved.

But it doesn't end there. Shakespeare has written so many plots dripping with deep, soul shattering romance, and often he couched such deep longings and yearnings in either bloodshed or comedy. Take, for example, the story Hero in Much Ado about nothing. Hero is a pure, lovely girl who falls in love with a man named Claudio. Claudio's enemy, seeking to destroy the lover's ploy, does some mischief and portrays Hero as being a slut. When the wedding happens, her bridegroom publicly denounces her as a whore at the altar for everyone to see and walks away from her. She's devastated. Her family contrives to pretend she died, and endeavors to prove she is innocent. Once this happens, Claudio, who denounced her so publicly is shattered. He really loved her, but listened to his 'friends' (enemies) instead of his heart. He He apologies to her father, and is then requested to go to her tomb and put a public plaque of apology on the door for all to see. He does so and through his regret, we see a man much in love and ashamed of himself for so grievously wounding his love and causing her death. By the way, the lovers are reunited in the end.

Within the same story is the relationship of Beatrice and Benedict. These two are both strong, witty characters, and they despise each other. As entertainment, the gathering decides to lie to each of them and tell them that the other is secretly in love with them. This brings on a bunch of humorous and scintillating exchanges between the pair, as each one now second guesses the other's stinging retorts for hidden meanings of affection. In the end, they do fall in love with each other. If you haven't seen the movie starring Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson as Benedict & Beatrice, check it out. It also stars a very young Kate Beckinsale as Hero, and Denzel Washington as the Prince. 

Another example of timeless romance, is the muli-layered story of A Midsummer Night's Dream: While I'm not the fond of the movie version with Michelle Pfieffer,  (it's okay, but the play reads much better!) I do love the deep romantic subplots of the story. There are mature lovers getting married, fairy lovers at odds with one another, and runaway mortal lovers traveling through the forest at night to escape death, and to escape the wrong person who has fallen in love with them and is chasing after them due to a troubling magic potion. We have so many lovers in this story it is really like a paranormal romance. Fairy Queens falling for mortal men, mortal lovers chasing mortal lovers. Fairy lovers at odds as Titania and Oberon try to work out problems in their marriage ....... it's a beautiful, yet clever, engaging story. 

And lastly,  another favorite of mine, is As You Like It. In this story, a man named Orland, who is so moonstruck in love with a woman, he's going around carving her name on trees, writing sonnets to her, and so forth. The woman, Rosalind, is running away from an evil uncle and encounters him in the woods (she's disguised as a man), she has some amusement at Orlando's expense by trying to talk him out of love with this supposed paragon. Orlando doesn't know that the very woman he loves is before him, dressed as a man. So, they argue, with Orlando defending his love for his lady while Rosalind, disguised as the young man Ganymede, attempts to talk him out of his ridiculous obsession and cure him of his love sickness.

It is truly inspiring to think that a man wrote these passionate scenes, a man, yes, it's true! 
So, if you're still wondering about the answer to the opening question, Can a man write romance?,  the answer is a resounding YES!  Men can write romance, and do it quite well.
Shakespeare has done it, and we all know how that ended. He's become a household name.

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