If Shakespeare had a sister

If you go back around the time of Elizabeth you’ll realise every other man was very much capable of writing brilliant sonnets and songs. It took several decades for a woman (Aphra Behn) in English literature to come forward and start earning professionally from her writing (it was her only means of survival because all men in her family were dead). If you read about history of women you will hardly find anything till 18th century, excluding the royalties. Only historic mentions about middle class women are that that she should be tamed, protected, can be beaten by her father or husband if she is hostile, and should follow millions of rules to be an ideal woman. Isn’t it ironic that she is of the highest importance in fiction, but practically she was completely insignificant until last few centuries! She is the prose, dominates kings and their lives, some of the most poetic and inspiring words are written for her in the oldest of our litreature, but in real life she is absent from the history, she was slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring on her, and she could hardly read, was a property of her husband.

I find it a little absurd, that how were there no women capable of writing poems back then? What if, hypothetically Shakespeare had a sister, equally talented, equally creative and equally genius, could she have been the next Shakespeare? Lets see- On one hand Shakespeare was given the best of education, logic, grammar, litreature, languages, history, sent to the best of schools. He travelled places, explored his passion, joined a theatre where he held horses at the stage door and very soon got to work in the theatre, became a successful actor and writer. He had the time of his life, he met everyone, knew everyone, could go on streets or could go to the queen. On the other hand, his extraordinarily gifted sister stayed at home. She wasn’t allowed to go to school, there was no one who would give her the best of education, she cannot possibly go out without a male company. Even if she tried writing she was told to focus her attention on cooking or stitching. And even she wrote something she had to hide it or may be burn it because if they were found it will be nothing less than wreaking havoc. And as soon as she came of age she would’ve got married. But lets assume she was rebellious, and knew she could make something of herself in theatre. She had to run away to join theatre and nobody let her in, women were not supposed to be actors back then. Men laughed on her face, rejected, used, abused and ridiculed her. She had nowhere to go, no means to earn, nothing to live for. Her life would end as every Shakespeare tragedy does.

Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare, they say. And I think that’s very much true. No women could possibly write like Shakespeare at the time of Shakespeare. To write something so masterfully, women need that specific state of mind and opportunity, financial independence, that most men already had and the worst men had to face was indifference. It was not the same for women, with time they get bitter not because of the indifference but with the hostility they were constantly surrounded by, even their mind was not free to think for themselves. So when they wrote you could see the bitterness. Even though men could write things about women like incapable, inferior, weaker, dumb, shameless etc. if women wrote things about the other sex which are true but not complementary they were (and are still) called the arrant feminists. Society always did put more emphasis on which book has more importance, the book on war and politics is more significant than a book about woman refusing to marry.

Virginia Woolf’s essay “A room of one’s own” proves her thesis that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction (or any art really)”. The freedom to think intellectually comes from financial independence, it gives you liberty to call a spade a spade, it gives one the power to contemplate and a room to lock outside world gives you the power to think of oneself. If there’s anything I’ve read that best explains the situation of women through out the history it is this essay. Virginia Woolf wonders throughout her essay why there were more books written by men than women, she wonders how her female counterparts would have written differently if they had their own writing desk, and equal opportunities to go in to the world by themselves, she created a fictional character- Shakespeare’s sister to show us what women had to deal with back then. And there by she has created a beautiful and vital piece of art that would help everyone to understand what feminism really is and why we need it.

Few things in the essay that made my mouth drop are how women were not allowed to inherit any wealth, their income was solely the property of their husband. They were not allowed to walk on turf but only on gravel. There’s even an incident where the author herself is not allowed in the library without a male companion or a letter from the superiors (obviously men). Can you believe the audacity to tell one of the most prolific writer of our age that she’s not allowed in the library because of her gender? I cannot!

Although it’s been a century since this essay was written, several laws have been passed, lot of work has been going on towards betterment of women in our society, we are still not there yet. We’ll get there sooner or later. And till then Virginia Woolf advices women to stop giving excuses. She tells us that now is a different time, women are very much capable of carving their own path, earning their own money. The excuse of lack of opportunity, training, encouragement, leisure, and money no longer holds good.

And may be then when Shakespeare’s sister is born again, and she will find it possible to live and write her poetry again. But she would come only if we work for her, in poverty and obscurity, it will all be worthwhile.

And to conclude this post with Virginia Woolf’s piercing wisdom:

Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.

Applying Schrödinger’s Cat paradox to real life

Storytime. Our boy Will Grayson tries to live his life without being noticed and finds romance drama unbearable. He somehow ends up with a crush on a girl called Jane. Or maybe not. He is oftentimes confused about whether he likes Jane or not. She eventually gets tired of Wills indecisiveness and gets back with her ex. And that’s how Will realizes he is in love with her. It’s his thing, you know, he doesn’t want someone in his life until they’re gone. This is a bit familiar. Oh wait! we have done this one time or the other, haven’t we? I hope it’s not only me.

Even though Will likes to think she is not his types, they both like a lot of similar stuff, for eg. a band called Maybe Dead Cats. The name of the band is derived from the famous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment. Let me try to explain this experiment as plainly as possible (don’t try this at home)- A physicist, Niels Bohr came up with a quantum mechanics interpretation (Copenhagen interpretation) that says a radioactive atom is literally in two states at once- decayed and not decayed. Another physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, found this interpretation ridiculous. So he came up with an experiment that proves how absurd the interpretation is with his imaginary (emphasis on imaginary), feline friend. He kept a cat in a closed box with some radioactive stuff. The box may or may not release poison depending on the state of the radioactive atom. And as the interpretation says the atom is in both state that means the box contains poison and also does not contain poison, which means the cat is dead and alive at the same time until we open the box and find out if it is alive or dead.

Okay, the physics part is over let’s get back to our confused boy Will. He is in a similar place, he does not know if he wants Jane or not. Maybe the relationship cat is dead or maybe it’s not. Not that he doesn’t want to know, he just doesn’t want to deal with his feelings that will arise if he finds out the cat is dead. After a bit of romantic drama, he finally reaches a conclusion:

Keeping the box closed doesn’t actually keep the cat alive-and-dead. It just keeps you in the dark, not the universe.

And if you thought you’ll never use Physics in your love life then let me prove you wrong. It’s totally possible. Like for a lot of people who avoid taking decisions, for them, it seems that all possible results are happening at the same time and there is a little pleasure in it. But you can’t possibly live like that. Someday or the other you have to open that damn box and deal with what’s in it. You don’t have to live your life with closed boxes. You have to take that risk, and 50% of the times the cat will be alive and that’s a pretty good probability to live with.

In the end, Will and Jane decide to open the box and give it a try. Things are alive for now, but who knows? In the future, it might all fall apart. But that’s okay—Will finally realizes that this stuff is all part of living and loving. He doesn’t want to opt for closed boxes anymore. He wants to pull off those lids and take his chance with what’s inside. Yay!

From the book- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green.

I read Pride and prejudice when everyone around me seems to be getting married

If there’s one thing that Pandemic has made people realise is that how much they need to get married ASAP. Almost every other person I know is getting married or have been married for a month or so. It’s all so exciting seeing everyone around me in so much love and, also, devastating for people like me who have been forever single. Attending any wedding is not only tiresome, for an introvert like me, but it also makes everyone question me about my singlehood, worrying about my biological clock ticking away, and lack of men available at old age. As they see it I need to find a man immediately, or else I’ll never be truly happy in life. Even though I try to smile it away without stating my reasons they end up deciding that I am, obviously, very headstrong, choosy, and proud, which, I’m not gonna lie, I am.

I knew that reading a romantic classic at such a time would only make my disposition worse (Thanks to Mr Darcy) but I needed to indulge in this pity party as no one else would. I always turn towards Romcoms whenever I’m extremely sad over my love life, not to fantasize but many times to understand, what it takes to love someone, to be with them, and what mistakes I’ve been making in my life, and how nowhere I will be with my limiting beliefs. And I always end up learning something or the other. And this book didn’t fail at all.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”

This opening line will go down in history as one of the best opening line in English literature. Jane Austen introduces so many types of marriage throughout the book and the reason why people go ahead with them. And a lot of it is still applicable in today’s world. I’ve met many women, who marry just for the sake of security or worst- marrying, I’ve known several acquaintances, who get married so rashly and end up, well, not at all happy. I’ve also seen very very closely marriages similar to Elizabeth’s parent, where they are of no match to each other and yet carry on with their lives not living but bearing each other. And then there are people like Elizabeth (and I), who do not indulge, rather stay on sidelines and observe everyone and everything from a distance and only hope that this won’t be what we end up with.

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular, classical romantic novels of all time, and Elizabeth Bennett is, no-doubt, one of the most celebrated, flawed, boldest female character in the history of literature. I think every independent woman can relate to her one way or the another and I am not an exception here. Her gracefully standing up for herself, her fearless critical observations towards others and good wit, and not scared to say the way it is, is what makes her so different than what we are accustomed to watching women on screen. Her ability to make mistakes, stubbornness, her being blinded by pride and prejudice, and then learning from all this to be a better person, only makes her one of the most realistic representations of female characters in pop culture. What I loved the most about her was the way she didn’t care about class, wealth, security, but only cared about how the person standing in-front of her treats people beneath them. It takes a huge deal of courage to be who you are, reject every idea/men society has fed you to be suitable for you, and keep your values intact, even if it is a time when women are not allowed to vote.

All the Romcoms I’ve seen fade away when compared to the characters, plot, dialogues Jane Austen has brilliantly written. Her use of irony, wit and humour is what makes this book a classic. Her commentary on marriage, money and society, is so intertwined and profound that it makes you understand how and why some women act the way they do. And it’s still very much, sad and disappointing to say the least that things are still the same as they were in the 18th century, for many women around me.

So what I learned from reading this romantic novel you ask? It’s this- We all think love is what makes us blind, but our pride and prejudices makes us more blind than we can imagine. And when it comes to love, sometimes it’s just not your time yet. The person meant for you can be right there beside you but many times you need to go through several self-discovery phases and reject every Mr Collins in your way without being afraid of left alone. Be unapologetically yourself and everything else will follow. Furthermore, marriage isn’t about security, lust, peace or society but it’s about accepting and loving a person just the way he/she is, with all of their strengths and weaknesses. And before you accept and know that person it’s equally crucial that you do the same for yourself.