Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

“I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. – Mother Teresa”

Nun’s say it best right? This quote from Mama T is not the topic of this post but rather a scene setter, aptly describing the tumultuous nature of that enigmatic creature that is love.

Love can be simultaneously the greatest feeling in the world, and yet it can be the most painful soul destroying experience.

So if love itself is bad enough, what’s it like for those among us who fall in love hard and fast? I’m talking about the romantics, the poets, some would say- the fools. Those who give all they’ve got right at the start, running into enemy lines with guns blazing.

So what is love , and where did it derive from, for those who ” Wear their hearts on their sleeves?” 

I like this idiom because it has both a historical past but also, as always, is somehow related to Billy Shakespeare.

( Surely by now I should just resign to the fact that most modern day sayings are in some way related to him, I have after all immersed myself in the incestuous world of quotations. )

Historically men were believed to be better soldiers if they were bachelors. Without the hold of a woman, man could inflict testosterone infused violence  upon whatever enemy he was commanded to attack.  Emperor Claudios Gothicus of the Roman Empire sealed the deal by making marriage illegal . Now don’t worry, we all know Romans enjoyed the finer things in life, so good old Claudios had his boy’s backs.  Men were allowed to – during the annual festival celebrating the goddess Juno – draw the name of a woman who would become his – what is now –  friend with a benefit. He would then wear this lady’s name on his sleeve and would *ahem* be with her for the coming year. ( Facebook status : It’s Complicated ??)

Away from Italy and in England at the same era, men once again, in their quest for displays of dominance, took part in jousting.  And what impresses a woman more than watching a man with a massive lance on a horse. ( Tone lowered..?) Now this desirable knight would dedicate this romantic scene to his beloved by wearing something of hers around his arm.

So these two are  figurative examples of men  literally wearing – in some way-  their “hearts” on their arms. However it is Shakespeare’s use of the phrase that  is used in modern day.

In his play Othello it reads :

“For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.”

Here the character Iago is telling Roderigo that his perceived loyalties to the Venetian general, Othello, are indeed a masquerade. ( This boy be frontin.)  He is saying that when one displays their true emotions and intentions outwardly ( the native act and figure of my heart) it leaves them vulnerable to birds to peck away at. So when you wear your “heart”, that is your feelings and your hopes, so outwardly and visible, it leaves you vulnerable to others , who can – like so often occurs in the madness of love – take slowly away from you, without returning what you first gave them . And so sadness can only ensue.

Iago describes a pessimistic world.  But perhaps we don’t have to go sleeveless just yet, we don’t have to hide our feelings entirely but maybe it’s time to roll up our sleeves,  put on the arm bands, and jump into the deep end.

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

Back to Shakespeare again folks. But not because I have an intense fan girl  obsession with our favorite English playwright, nay but because of Halloween.

That’s right, double double toil and trouble, something wicked this way comes! Halloween is nigh and with it brings a legitimate reason for me to be able to put too much effort and excitement into a costume undoubtedly nobody but perhaps an english or film studies student will get.

This year I am going as a star crossed lover  – masquerading this October 31st as  good old Juliet Capulet ( I’m in the middle of sourcing an apothecary to acquire poison as well as a blood stained dagger so that perhaps more people may know who I am actually meant to be. )

But it got me thinking. Romeo and Juliet is  a cultural staple, its plot forms the foundations of most modern day rom-coms; a classic tale of forbidden love which ends tragically . But, if it is such a well recognized play and so engrained in popular culture, why is it that it is so frequently misinterpreted ?

O Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

The scene is set. Juliet sits at her balcony and – as one  does – declares her feelings in regards to her undying (and slightly hastily decided) love for Romeo – a 16th century Bridget Jones’ diary.

Now the above quote is often thought to mean ” where are you Romeo?” Now this makes sense grammatically and is in context with the play. Nevertheless the actual meaning of ” Wherefore art thou Romeo” makes even more sense grammatically and is even more in context with the play.

Wherefore art means ” why do you have to be.” So Juliet is not yearning for the longitude and latitude of her lover, she doesn’t want his GPS location, she’s not clingy like that. No she wants more. Our gal Juliet is a philosopher, she wants to know why he had to be born a Montague, born a son of the sworn enemies of her family.

So ladies and gentlemen this time it’s a case of why rather than where for both Romeo and Juliet and myself.

WHY will people not understand who I am dressed up as this Halloween?

Maybe it’ll be because people will expect me to be looking for my Romeo . But we all know now that I won’t be looking for him, but rather I’ll be sitting somewhere, dram of whisky in hand, questioning and pondering his bloodline and heritage.

Wherefore art thou indeed .

Therein Lies The Rub

I thought I would start off with a classic and slowly work my way into some favorites of mine (Voltaire and Bukowski) .

So for all you modern moguls here’s a  blast from the past.  Shakespeare, an universal pioneer in modern day quotations, was an Englishman with both a penchant for comedy and tragedy . But you just can’t have those two together in one story – or can you?

And therein lies the rub!

The quote itself is a misquotation from Hamlet’s soliloquy about suicide:

“To die, to sleep

To sleep perchance to dream:

Ay, there’s the rub.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come”

Therein lies the rub – or to quote exactly – “there’s the rub”   means – that’s where the problem/obstacle is.”

Hamlet  is reflecting on the possibility of suicide as a means to an easy end. That perhaps death – which he likens to a “sleep, perchance to dream” may be preferable to life. He comes to realize that nobody knows what death itself has to hold  as nobody has ever come back from the dead to recount their tales, and so that perhaps that is the catch to suicide – therein lies the rub.

“Rub” originated from the good old English game of bowls – a rub was a fault in the surface of the green which would divert a bowl from its desired and planned direction.

Despite being overshadowed by its older brother ” to be or not to be, ” “therein lies the rub” is still used in modern day conversation. People just don’t know that good old Billy Shakespeare helped to coin it into 21st century English.

So here’s to the underdog, the middle child of Hamlet’s monologue.

We found the rub but we’re not going to erase it .

( Bad joke – but I’m not sorry )