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Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Part 2: Tying up 300 or so Dylan-Shakespeare loose ends...

There was some urgency in finishing that last post (actually, being an endless revisionist, like Mr. Dylan himself, I may tweak it a teensy bit yet). But after almost four days I wanted badly to "make it a wrap" of the basic argument. And tackle some of the bulking backlog here, like the "Glossy Magazines" autopsy.
   Alas, readers must be aware that the post leaves a lot of questions dangling, like--how far did Dylan go in tapping Shakespeare? Was it a one-play-per-song program in Dylan's mind? Were Band members in on the joke? (for it does strike me as a joker-thing to do, on one level a prank that his nemesis, Mr. Jones-Weberman would utterly fail to find when he emptied the trash). Again, are there some songs (besides the Band's) that were NOT "keyed" to Shakespeare? (at first glance "Going to Acapulco" and "Tiny Montgomery"--personal favorites by the way--do NOT seem to contain anything Shakespearean, but then again the Shakespeare-keyed songs are very low-key, and I haven't read every Shakespeare play, so who knows what a heavier scrutiny of the other songs might reveal).
   But in addition to this, I had questions of my own, some of them arising from my adventures as a student of Shakespeare, and finding that the Bard did a great number of sneaking "stealth allusions" that bear some resemblance to Dylan's covert operations. Is there then some sort of primal (or sophisticated) artistic method at work between the two word-slingers?...

(Aug 27) Again, the little hint of Othello at the end of the the last post really needs expansion, for it isn't as offhand or joke-y as I perhaps made it look. Being a Shakespeare semi-pro I know the The Wheel of Fire is a reputed book of Shakespeare criticism, and not unrelated to the Bob Dylan song. Check this:


Little wonder Dylan in the recent Rolling Stone is emphasizing Shakespeare so much. But the whole Shakespeare-in-Dylan thing is a HUGE row to hoe. It'd be easer if Dylan just came out and admitted his roots, but I suppose it might be futile to peevishly beg him "Let us not talk falsely now"..

(Sept. 2) On third thought, maybe let's just leave the dangling questions dangling for now. The big ones require too much reading and research (hey, Timon of Athens could parallel "Tiny Montgomery" maybe?--or Midsummer Night's Dream parallel "Million Dollar Bash"?), the small ones will resolve themselves in due course (e.g. "you can rock this joint" paralleling "the time is out of joint" in Hamlet/"Levee" which popped unannounced into my brain two days ago, but merely another smidgen in the evidence-heap and very little by itself).

And ultimately this whole mess of correlations, while fascinating, proves not much except that Dylan is a most playful lover of Shakespeare, and fails to stay away from pranks. I can almost hear Dylan responding with dry sarcasm, "Yeah, so I used some Shakespeare. So what?"

Unlike Alan J. Weberman, I find no program or agenda, artistic or political, in the sneaky source-usage. Unlike Shakespeare, Dylan does not employ stealth-allusions as a cohesive structure of meaning (unless you expand "structure of meaning" to include impressionistic goofs), which makes Shakespeare's coy references to the Bible, and to medieval mystery and morality plays far more important.

Ergo: back to the big Shakespeare job for the moment.

(Sept. 8-9) Easier said than done!--my brain just lingers on this, as you can tell from my Twitter feed. Yes, preliminary indications do link "You Ain't Going Nowhere" with The Winter's Tale. "Tomorrow's the day my bride's gonna come" sure seems to hint of Hermione's return, eh?

Aaaand, spent most of the 8th doing a quick scan of the entire play (jeez, really CAN'T afford all that time) to find matches with the official Dylan lyrics. Found LOTS:
-The blustery weather that starts the song matches the weather when baby Perdita is abandoned. (Act III scene iii)
-No frozen railings in Shakespeare, but the abandonment follows the scene (Act III scene ii) where Leontes finally (a bit late) stops railing about Hermione's alleged adultery, and repents. Who loves puns more? Bob or Will? I ask you!
-"Get your mind off wintertime..." Hope THAT needs no explanation...
-"I don't care how many letters they sent"--Leontes's refusal to believe the oracle's letter (same scene as when his railing finally freezes).
-"Pick up your money"--Autolycus pick-pocketing (IV, ii)
-"...a gun that shoots/ Tailgates and substitutes"--Leontes jealousy and rage at Polixenes for, um, tailgating his wife (allegedly) as a "substitute" husband.
-"Strap yourself to the tree with roots"--"The root of his opinion, which is rotten/ As ever oak or stone was sound." (II, iii, 88-9)
-"Genghis Khan/ He could not keep/ All his kings/ Supplied with sleep"--Hermione is daughter of the King of Russia. Add Polixenes and Leontes and that is three kings, possibly all subject to the great Khan in the romance-world of Shakespeare and/or the scramble-y brain of Dylan. A stretch? Maybe. But consider that The Winter's Tale starts with Polixenes proposing curious "sleepy drinks" (I, i, 14) to Leontes as a substitute for returning Leontes's extravagent hospitality (which Polixenes can't afford to equal). Consider also "It is required/ You do awake your faith" in the climactic scene where the "statue" of Hermione comes to life.
-"Oo-ee, ride me high" suggests both the  pastoral dancing, where the three peasant dancers "by their own report, sir, hath danced before the king; and not the worst of the three but jumps twelve foot and a half by th' squire" (IV, iv, 330-2)--but also the play's constant contrast between low-class and high-class society, innocent enough on the surface, although this critic has been trained to keep a sharp eye on Shakespeare's deadpan.

The alternative, I suppose is that Dylan is just conjuring up his song out of pure-poetic wackiness (and possibly chemical assistance) but I prefer a little method in Dylan's's madness. He is more educated than he lets on, and the coincidences seem a little to numerous to be mere accidents. Still, there are a few remaining lyrics that seem determinedly inexplicable. But only a few--despite all the music and instruments in the play I STILL haven't located a darn flute. Ditto an "easy chair" although that might just be a throne, eh?