Live Questions from Dead Poets: Elizabeth Crane vs. Shakespeare

Elizabeth Crane author photo

Elizabeth Crane is the author of three collections of short stories, most recently You Must Be This Happy to Enter. She is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Century Award. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Selected Shorts and adapted for the stage by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. Her debut novel, We Only Know So Much, is out now from HarperPerennial.

William Shakespeare was a writer who lived in England. In the following interview conducted via sonnet, he asked Crane about all things Elizabethan.

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

I have no idea where she is, dude, there’s not a lot of husbandry that I know of happening in the East Village.

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thy self thy beauty's legacy?

Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?

Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?

For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?

I think you’re preaching to the choir here.

That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That's for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?

Seriously, I DON’T KNOW. But I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out.

ShakespeareO! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?

I hope not.

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify your self in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?

You keep asking questions I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to answer for years. I do know some other stuff, though, like where to buy a really nice letterpress card in Chicago, or how to mend a hole in a sweater.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Sure, but I think I can kick a summer’s day’s ass any day. Of any season.

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?

Everyone makes mistakes once in a while. Cut me some slack.

Shakespeare's questions above were taken in order from Sonnets III
, IV, VI

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