Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare

 

Best sold poets or prophets? Shakespeare,  Lao-tzu, Kahlil Gibran

I read the Prophet of Gibran long time ago, in its English original version, and I was not impressed then.

I am reading it now in a French version, translated by Anne Wade Minkowski with a preface by the Syrian poet Adonis. And I like it a lot.

In this preface, Adonis wrote:

“The Prophet was meant to flourish in man all that surpasses his comprehension and all that is larger than his grasp in intendment: Love, happiness, revolt and freedom”

The Lebanese author, Alexander Najjar, wrote a extensive biographical series for TV on Gibran, and I watched a few of them.

In fact, I’m contemplating posting abridged version of the 26 pieces, my own style, to conform with this mania of short attention span of social platforms in FB and twitter

 published an extensive essay on Gibran and the Prophet in The New Yorker in 2008.

Shakespeare, we are told, is the best-selling poet of all time.

Second is Lao-tzu.

Third is Kahlil Gibran, who owes his place on that list to one book “The Prophet”.

It is a collection of 26 prose poems, delivered as sermons by a fictional wise man in a faraway time and place.

Since its publication, in 1923, “The Prophet” has sold more than 9 million copies in its American edition alone. There are public schools named for Gibran in Brooklyn and Yonkers.

“The Prophet” has been recited at countless weddings and funerals. It is quoted in books and articles on training art teachers, determining criminal responsibility, and enduring ectopic pregnancy, sleep disorders, and the news that your son is gay. Its words turn up in advertisements for marriage counsellors, chiropractors, learning-disabilities specialists, and face cream.

“The Prophet” started fast—it sold out its first printing in a month—and then it got faster, until, in the nineteen-sixties, its sales sometimes reached five thousand copies a week. It was the Bible of that decade. But the book’s popularity should not be laid entirely at the door of the hippies.

“The Prophet” was a hit long before the sixties (it made good money even during the Depression), and sales after that decade have never been less than healthy—a record all the more impressive in that it is due almost entirely to word of mouth. Apart from a brief effort during the twenties, “The Prophet” has never been advertised.

Presumably in honor of this commercial feat, Everyman’s Library has now brought out “Kahlil Gibran: The Collected Works” ($27.50), with a pretty red binding and a gold ribbon for a bookmark.

While most people know Gibran only as the author of “The Prophet,” he wrote 17 books, nine in Arabic and eight in English.

The Everyman’s volume contains twelve of them.

The critics will no doubt greet it with the same indifference they have shown Gibran ever since his death, in 1931. Even his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, brushed him off.

When Knopf was asked, in 1965, who the audience for “The Prophet” was, he replied that he had no idea. “It must be a cult,” he said—an ungrateful response from the man to whom “The Prophet” had been a cash cow for more than 40 years.

In 1974, a cousin of the poet’s, also named Kahlil Gibran, and his wife, Jean, published a good biography, “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World.”

Then, in 1998, came the more searching “Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran,” by Robin Waterfield, a translator of ancient Greek literature.

But until the first of those books appeared—that is, for 43 years after Gibran’s death—there was no proper biography of this hugely influential author.

Both Waterfield and the Gibrans complain about the literati’s lack of respect for their subject—Waterfield blames it on snobbery, “hard-hearted cynicism”—but the facts they dug up were not such as to improve his reputation.

Part of the reason there were no real biographies is that little was known about Gibran’s life, and the reason for that is that he didn’t want it known.

One point that seems firm is that he was born in Lebanon, in a village called Bsharri, in 1883.

At that time, Lebanon was part of Syria, which in turn was part of the Ottoman Empire. Gibran, by his account, was a brooding, soulful child. From his earliest years, he said, he drew constantly—painting was his first art and, for a long time, as important to him as writing—and he communed with nature.

When a storm came, he would rip off his clothes and run out into the torrent in ecstasy.

His mother, Kamileh, got others to leave her strange boy alone. “Sometimes,” Gibran later recalled, “she would smile at someone who came in . . . and lay her finger on her lip and say, ‘Hush. He’s not here.’ ”

Kamileh and Bhutros would not have failed to notice that Kahlil was spending all his time with people he did not introduce them to. They may also have worried about his exposure to Protestantism—they were Christians of the Maronite sect, allied with the Church of Rome—and, indeed, to Day, who was presumably homosexual.

In any case, Gibran, at the age of 15, was packed off to a Maronite college in Beirut.

In his three years there, he apparently decided that he might be a writer as well as a painter. He and a classmate founded a student literary magazine, and he was elected “college poet.”

In 1902 he returned to the South End, and to his family’s troubles. Two weeks before he landed in Boston, Sultana died, of tuberculosis, at the age of fourteen.

The following year, Bhutros died, also of t.b. (it was rife in the South End), and then Kamileh, of cancer.

Waterfield says that there is no evidence that Gibran mourned any of them for long. It is hard to escape the thought that this ambitious young man was not inconvenienced by the loss of his slum-dwelling family.

One member remained, however: his sister Marianna. She adored him, cooked his dinners, made his clothes, and supported the two of them on her earnings from the dressmaker’s shop. Gibran still took no job; art was his job.

Soon, he had something to show. Day held an exhibition of Gibran’s drawings in his studio in 1904. They were products of their time, or a slightly earlier time, that of the European Symbolist painters: Puvis de Chavannes, Eugène Carrière, Gustave Moreau.

Often, in the foreground, one saw a sort of pileup of faceless humanity, while in the background there hovered a Greater Power—an angel, perhaps, or just a sort of milky miasma, suggestive of mystery and the soul.

Gibran began publishing his writings as well: collections of stories and poems, parables and aphorisms.

He had been heavily exposed to Lebanon’s political problems: the warring among religious sects, the sufferings of the poor at the hands of a corrupt clergy and the distant Turkish overlords. (And the Famine Hecatomb (195-18) that befell most of Mount Lebanon and killed a third of the population)

Anger over this, and also pity—whether for Lebanese peasants or, quite often, for himself—were the main themes of his early writings. They were published in Arabic, and they won him great admiration in the Arab-American community. Not only was he standing up for his homeland; he was “making it” in America—and in art, not in drygoods.

Gibran’s father was not a good provider. He owned a walnut grove, but he didn’t like working it. He preferred drinking and gambling. He eventually got a job as a tax collector, but then he was arrested for embezzlement. Poor before, the family now became destitute.

In 1895, his mother Kamileh packed up her four children—Bhutros, Kahlil (then twelve), Marianna, and Sultana—and sailed to America. They settled in Boston, in the South End, a squalid ghetto filled with immigrants from various countries. (Today, it is Boston’s Chinatown.)

Kamileh, like many other Syrian immigrants, became a pack peddler; that is, she went door to door, selling lace and linens out of a basket she carried on her back. Within a year, she had put aside enough money to set Bhutros up in a drygoods store.

The two girls were sent out to work as seamstresses; neither ever learned to read or write. Kahlil alone was excused from putting food on the table. He went to school, for the first time.

He enrolled in an art class at a nearby settlement house, and through his teacher he was sent to a man named Fred Holland Day. In European art, this was the period of the Decadents.

Theosophy, espoused by Madame Blavatsky, became a craze. People went to séances, dabbled in drugs, and scorned the ugly-hearted West in favor of the more spiritual East. Above all, they made a religion of art.

Day, thirty-two years old and financially independent, was a leader of the Boston outpost of this movement. He wore a turban, smoked a hookah, and read by candlelight. He did serious work, however. He and his friends founded two arts magazines, and he was a partner in a publishing house that produced exquisite books.

By the 1890’s, Day’s main interest was photography. He particularly liked to photograph beautiful young boys of “exotic” origin, sometimes nude, sometimes in their native costumes, and he often recruited them from the streets of the South End. When the thirteen-year-old Gibran turned up at Day’s door, in 1896, he became one of the models.

Day was especially taken with Gibran. He made him his pupil and assistant, and he introduced him to the literature of the nineteenth century, the Romantic poets and their Symbolist inheritors.

Robin Waterfield, in his biography, says that this syllabus, with its emphasis on suffering, prophecy, and the religion of love, was the rock on which Gibran built his later style.

According to Waterfield, Day also gave Gibran his “pretensions.” Imagine what it was like for a child from the ghetto to walk into this world of comfort and beauty, a world, furthermore, where a person could make a life of art.

Fortuitously, Gibran already fitted into Day’s milieu in a small way: he was “Oriental.”

Day made a fuss over Gibran’s origins, treated him, Waterfield says, like a “Middle Eastern princeling.” Gibran looked the part. He was very handsome, and also reticent. A later mentor declared him a mystic, “a young prophet.” (This was before he had published anything professionally.) And so he began to see himself that way.

Soon, he had something to show.

Day held an exhibition of Gibran’s drawings in his studio in 1904. They were products of their time, or a slightly earlier time, that of the European Symbolist painters: Puvis de Chavannes, Eugène Carrière, Gustave Moreau. Often, in the foreground, one saw a sort of pileup of faceless humanity, while in the background there hovered a Greater Power—an angel, perhaps, or just a sort of milky miasma, suggestive of mystery and the soul.

Gibran began publishing his writings as well: collections of stories and poems, parables and aphorisms. He had been heavily exposed to Lebanon’s political problems: the warring among religious sects, the sufferings of the poor at the hands of a corrupt clergy and the distant Turkish overlords. Anger over this, and also pity—whether for Lebanese peasants or, quite often, for himself—were the main themes of his early writings.

They were published in Arabic, and they won him great admiration in the Arab-American community. Not only was he standing up for his homeland; he was “making it” in America—and in art, not in drygoods.

He enjoyed this, but he wanted a larger audience, and soon he found the person who would make that possible. Mary Haskell, the headmistress of a girls’ school in Boston, was a New Woman. She believed in long hikes, cold showers, and progressive politics.

Her school disdained Latin and Greek; it taught anatomy and current events instead. Before Gibran became close to Haskell, in 1908, he had a history of befriending older women who could be useful to him. Haskell, too, was older, by nine years. (She was also taller. Gibran was five feet three, a source of grief to him all his life.)

She was not rich, but by careful thrift—the school’s cook, who also had some wealthy employers, sneaked dinners to her from their kitchens—she managed to put aside enough money to support a number of deserving causes: a Greek immigrant boy who needed boarding-school tuition, and another Greek boy, at Harvard. Then she met Gibran, who would be her most expensive project.

In the beginning, her major benefaction to him was simply financial—she gave him money, she paid his rent. In 1908, she sent him to Paris for a year, to study painting. Before he went abroad, they were “just friends,” but once they were apart the talk of friendship turned to letters of love, and when Gibran returned to Boston they became engaged.

It was apparently agreed, though, that they would not marry until he felt he had established himself, and somehow this moment never came. Finally, Haskell offered to be his mistress. He wasn’t interested. In a painful passage in her diary, Haskell records how, one night, he said that she was looking thin.

On the pretext of showing him that she was actually well fleshed, she took off her clothes and stood before him naked. He kissed one of her breasts, and that was all. She got dressed again. She knew that he had had affairs with other women, but he claimed that he was not “sexually minded,” and furthermore that what she missed in their relationship was actually there.

When they were apart, he said, they were together. They didn’t need to have “intercourse”; their whole friendship was “a continued intercourse.”

More than sex or marriage, it seems, what Haskell wanted from Gibran was simply to be acknowledged as the woman in his life. As she told her diary, she wanted people to “know he loved me because it was the greatest honor I had and I wanted credit for it—wanted the fame of his loving me.” But he would not introduce her to his friends. “Poor Mary!” Waterfield says. Amen to that.

Later, Gibran told journalists many lies about his childhood, and, according to the Gibrans’ biography, he seems to have tried these out first on Haskell. He was of noble birth, he said. His father’s family had a palace in Bsharri, where they kept tigers for pets. His mother’s family was the richest in Lebanon. They owned immense properties, “whole towns.” He, as a young aristocrat, had been educated at home, by English, French, and German tutors

He was sure that a great destiny awaited him.

Mary believed this even more than he, and in the beginning her adulation was probably as important to him as her money. “Oh Glorious Kahlil!!” she wrote in her diary. “Transcendent, timeless spirit!”

When he read to her from an early book of his, she reported that “the invisible” gathered so thickly around her, “lights and sounds came from such far times and spaces, that from center to circumference I trembled with the excessive life-force”—a remarkable response, in view of the fact that the book was in Arabic, a language she did not then understand. She recorded the extraordinary experiences he told her he had had. For instance, he had intuited the theory of relativity before Einstein; he just hadn’t written it down. Thousands of times, he said, he had been sucked up into the air as dew, and “risen into clouds, then fallen as rain. . . . I’ve been a rock too, but I’m more of an air person.”

We don’t know how much of this Haskell believed. However godlike she found him, she was a schoolmistress, and she tried to educate him.

On the pretext of their having a nice literary evening together, she would get him to read to her from the classic authors, exactly as Fred Holland Day had done, and for the same reason—to improve his English. He profited from this, and of course resented it, as he resented the amount of money he had taken from her—by 1913, after five years of friendship, this came to $7,440, equal to almost a hundred and fifty thousand dollars today—but he didn’t tell her to stop writing the checks.

Soon after Gibran became “engaged” to Haskell, he told her that he was leaving town. Boston was a backwater. New York was where the action was. Clearly, he had another purpose as well: to get away from Haskell. He also needed to unload Marianna.

If he was to become a major artist, how was he going to explain that he lived with this illiterate woman who followed him around the house with a dust rag?

And so, in 1911, throwing off the two women who had supported him through his early period, Gibran moved to New York, and to his middle period. He found a studio apartment in an artists’ housing complex at 51 West Tenth Street. Haskell paid the rent, of course.

After a few years in New York, during which he published two more books in Arabic, Gibran made a serious decision: he was going to begin writing in English. To do this, he needed Haskell’s help, and she rushed to give it.

When they were apart, he sent her his manuscripts, and she sent back corrections. When they were together—she visited him often (sleeping elsewhere)—he dictated his work to her.

She wrote in her diary that if, during that process, “we come to a part that I question, we stop then and there.” Who resolved the question? We don’t know. She said that “he always gave every idea, and I simply found the phrases sometimes.” But finding the phrases is a large part of writing.

For Gibran’s first English-language publication, a brief poem, Haskell sent him seven pages of proposed corrections. She probably made substantial changes in his later work as well. Proud of this responsible role in his life, she gave up hoping for more.

In 1926, with no objections from Gibran, she married a rich relative. But at night, after her husband went to bed, she would work on Gibran’s manuscripts. Until he died, she edited all his English-language books. With the third of these, “The Prophet,” he hit pay dirt.

What made “The Prophet” so fantastically successful?

At the opening of the book, we are told that Almustafa, a holy man, has been living in exile, in a city called Orphalese, for twelve years. (When “The Prophet” was published, Gibran had been living in New York, in “exile” from Lebanon, for twelve years.) A ship is now coming to take him back to the island of his birth.

Saddened by his departure, people gather around and ask him for his final words of wisdom—on love, on work, on joy and sorrow, and so forth. He obliges, and his lucubrations on these matters occupy most of the book. Almustafa’s advice is not bad: love involves suffering; children should be given their independence. Who, these days, would say otherwise? More than the soundness of its advice, however, the mere fact that “The Prophet” was an advice book—or, more precisely, “inspirational literature”—probably insured a substantial readership at the start.

Gibran’s closest counterpart today is the Brazilian sage Paulo Coelho, and his books have sold nearly a hundred million copies.

Then, there is the pleasing ambiguity of Almustafa’s counsels. In the manner of horoscopes, the statements are so widely applicable (“your creativity,” “your family problems”) that almost anyone could think that they were addressed to him. At times, Almustafa’s vagueness is such that you can’t figure out what he means.

If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite.

Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes.

Also, the book sounds religious, which it is, in a way. Gibran was familiar with Buddhist and Muslim holy books, and above all with the Bible, in both its

It is a novel of sorts, a collection of 79 statements by people remembering Christ.

Some of the speakers are known to us—Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene—but others are inventions: a Lebanese sheepherder, a Greek apothecary. They all speak as if they were being interviewed.

Though Gibran thought of himself as an admirer of all religions, he had an obsession with Jesus.

He told Haskell that Jesus came to him in dreams. The two of them ate watercress together, and Jesus told him special things—for example, parables that didn’t make it into the Gospels.

On occasion, Gibran clearly saw himself as Jesus, and presumably it was this that inspired his unwise decision, in “Jesus, the Son of Man,” to rewrite long sections of the Bible, for example, the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in earth and heaven, sacred is Thy name. Thy will be done with us, even as in space.”

Much of the book transcends such follies, however.

Gibran at one time had hoped to be a playwright, and “Jesus” shows a gift for characterization and “voice”—an insistence, for the moment, on one speaker’s point of view—that saves the book from his habitual gassiness. Also, however much he imagined himself as Jesus, in this book alone he drops the oracular tone that is so oppressive in the rest of his work. A number of the speakers have complaints about Jesus.

Judas is allowed to justify his crime: “I thought He had chosen me a captain of His chariots, and a chief man of His warriors.” Judas’s disgraced mother is given a dignified and moving speech: “I beg you to question me no further about my son. I loved him and I shall love him forevermore. If love were in the flesh I would burn it out with hot irons and be at peace. But it is in the soul, unreachable. And now I would speak no more. Go question another woman more honored than the mother of Judas. Go to the mother of Jesus.” Hard words.

In contrast to “The Prophet,” which received few and tepid reviews, “Jesus, the Son of Man” was praised by critics, but these were mostly newspaper critics. While the literary journals paid some attention to Gibran early on, they eventually dropped him. This is no surprise. His leading traits—idealism, vagueness, sentimentality—were exactly what the young writers of the twenties were running away from. Consequently, he did not make the scene with Manhattan’s better class of artists. He seldom turns up in literary memoirs of the period. Edmund Wilson, in his journal of the twenties, says that “Gibran the Persian” was at a dinner party that a friend of his attended. That’s the only mention he gets.

But, if the artists of the time were throwing off idealism and sentiment, ordinary people were not. They wanted to hear about their souls, and Sinclair Lewis was not obliging them.

Hence the popularity of “The Prophet” with the general public. After its publication, Gibran received bags of fan mail. He was also besieged by visitors, mostly female. Interestingly, in view of his hunger for fame, he did not enjoy these attentions. He took to spending months of the year in Boston, with Marianna, and, though he was now making money, he didn’t change his way of living, or even his apartment. He remained in his one-room studio to the end of his life. Apparently, its monastic simplicity pleased him. He called it the Hermitage and lit it with candles.

His reclusiveness increased as his productivity decreased. After “Jesus, the Son of Man,” he was more or less played out. He produced two more books in English, but they were tired little things, and the reviewers said so. When Gibran was in Paris, he met Rodin, and he later claimed that the famous old sculptor had called him “the William Blake of the twentieth century.” This tribute was probably of Gibran’s manufacture, not Rodin’s, but people at Knopf liked it, and so it was bannered on Gibran’s publicity flyers. (Rodin couldn’t protest; he was dead.) After “The Prophet,” the critics, already annoyed by that book’s popularity, threw the phrase back in Gibran’s face. “Blake?” they asked.

By his forties, Gibran was a sick man. He had long complained of a periodic illness, which he called the flu. Now he decided that the malady was not in his body but in his soul

There was a great book inside him—greater than “The Prophet”—but he couldn’t get it out. He had another difficulty: alcoholism, a situation that may have developed soon after “The Prophet” was published, or while he was writing it. Robin Waterfield thinks that Gibran’s basic problem may have been a feeling of hypocrisy, in that his life so contradicted his pose as a holy man. In his last years, he stayed closed up in his apartment, occasionally receiving a worthy visitor but mostly drinking arak, a Syrian liquor that Marianna sent to him, apparently by the gallon.

By the spring of 1931, he was bedridden, and one morning the woman who brought him his breakfast decided that his condition was dangerous. Gibran was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he died later that day. The cause of death was recorded as “cirrhosis of the liver with incipient tuberculosis.” Waterfield reports that Gibran’s admirers have greatly stressed the tuberculosis over the cirrhosis. “Nothing incipient kills people,” he objects. His speculation seems to be that Gibran drank himself to death out of a sense of fraudulence and failure.

A black comedy ensued. After mobbed memorial services in New York and Boston, Marianna took the body to Lebanon for burial, as Gibran had wished. In Beirut, the casket was opened, and the minister of education pinned a medal on Gibran’s chest. Then began the eighty-mile trek to Bsharri, with an honor guard of three hundred. The road was lined with

townspeople, Jean and Kahlil Gibran report in their biography: “Young men in native dress brandished swords and dancing women scattered perfume and flowers before the hearse.”

Gibran’s will dictated that Marianna be given his money; Haskell his manuscripts and paintings; and the town of Bsharri all future American royalties on the books published during his lifetime. This last provision produced so many difficulties that it was cited in an American textbook on copyright law.

Who, among the people in Bsharri, was going to decide how this money would be distributed? Gibran had said that it was to be spent on good causes. To evaluate them, an administrative committee, with members from each of the town’s seven leading families, was set up, but this created further problems. “Families split apart in the clamor to win a committee position,” Time reported. “Age-old feuds gained new fury, and at least two deaths resulted.” Meanwhile, the funds were disappearing.

The situation became such a scandal that in 1967 Knopf started withholding the royalties, which at that point amounted to three hundred thousand dollars a year. Marianna eventually sued Bsharri to win control of the copyrights; the judgment went to the Bsharrians, though, in the process, their legacy was substantially reduced, because the fee that their Lebanese-American lawyer had negotiated with them was an astonishing twenty-five per cent of future royalties. The Bsharrians then sued the lawyer, and they lost.

In the end, the Lebanese government intervened and, reportedly, put Gibran’s estate to rights. His coffin rests in a deconsecrated monastery—Mar Sarkis, in Bsharri—that he chose for that purpose. Robin Waterfield has visited it. He says that he found a crack in the cover of the casket and that, when he looked into it, he saw straight through to the back—in other words, that the body had disappeared. This seems a fitting, if sad, conclusion. As Gibran’s mother said, “Hush. He’s not here.”

January 7, 2008 Issue

 has written for The New Yorker, reviewing dance and books, since 1992, and became the magazine’s dance critic in 1998.

Idioms borrowed from Shakespeare? And what did He borrow?

TryLife's photo.

I can relate…Sometime circa 1990 i wrote “I am different from me who is not the same as ken”.

Erin Janus's photo.

Most potent Queen: 16th century Catherine of Medicis

The 16th century was one of the most violent of centuries: massacres, religious genocide events, perpetual wars, famine, plagues (moria)…

And yet, the 16th century was ripe with illustrious and famous personalities and characters: Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Machiavelli, Ariosto, England Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Phillip II of Spain, Charles Quint, Savonarola, Luther, Calvin

You can say Europe in the 16th century was the Christian flip coin of current ISIS (Daesh) in extremism, cruelty and fixation in their belief systems.

Every nascent religious sect, and they were numerous (Protestants, Calvinists, Lutherans, Baptists, Anabaptists…), and they all adopted the Old Testament stories for guidance and the Ancient prophets proclamations as their guiding rod to commit massacres and try to wipe out the other sect members.

This is a typical case of counter reaction since the Catholics focused on the message of Jesus (The New Testament) and the stories of the saints while they had the Old testament on the back burner.

This trend in focus is still adopted today with both sects.

The Catholics were called the papists, the Protestant sects in France were called parpaillot, reformists, biblical and they wore the white scarf

Almost any Prince with wealth hired from the large pool of mercenaries to attack towns and villages and get the title of the vanquished prince and the razzia loot.

Katarina of Medicis lost both her parents as a child.

Her father was Laurent II of Florence and her mother was the French Madeleine de Bourbon of Auvergne.

By the age of 18, she had lost all her cousins and relatives. Italy was the scene of constant wars among the princes and town and cities changed hands very frequently.  For example her aunt, half-brother Alexander and cousin Hippolyte died by poisoning and in battles.

Catherine spent most of her childhood in prisons, monasteries, nunneries… until her great uncle Pope Clement managed to arrange her wedding to the second son of France King Francois I.

The French King and his son Henry were made prisoners by the monarch Charles Quint at the Pavia battle in Italy, and they remained incarcerated for 5 years.

Henri II and Catherine were 14 years old when they married.

At their wedding night, King Francois entered their bedroom and watched the actual intercourse and made sure to see the bloody bed sheet.

And Catherine could not get pregnant until she was 18 and she lived in perpetual fear of being divorced, but King Francois liked his Duchessina.

Her first son Francois died in childhood. And she remained pregnant every year for 15 years.

Diane de Poitier, the eternal sweet heart of King Henry until he died, wanted Catherine to be pregnant all the time so that she keep the king all to herself.

There was no competition: Diane was beautiful and tall, while Catherine was short, chubby and plain.

Henry II wore the black and white preferred colors of his beloved Diane and all the emblems had the H and D initials.

After Henry died in a Knight Fighting joust during a ceremony by the captain of his Scottish troop Montgomery, Diane met with Catherine and Diane retreated to her chateau, never to hear from her again.

Catherine gave birth a couple of times to twins who died in childbirth and many other of her progenitor.

Only 3 of her male kids survived to live to be over 3o and no more than 35 Two became kings Charles 9 and Henry 3.

The daughters who survived to get married off were 3: Elizabeth, Claude and Marguerite (Margo )

The eldest Elizabeth was betrothed to Phillip II of Spain, Claude to the Prince of Lorraine, and Marguerite (Margo ) to Henry of Navarre, who became king Henry 4, and thus the dynasty turned over from the Valois to the Bourbon.

Margo and Henry had no liking to one another and they mostly led separate life. Margo fucked every attractive person she liked and had love affairs with her brothers, particularly the future Henry III.

When Henry 4 was assassinated, Margo continued her life-style of total debauchery and refused to be detached from her Regency status even after her son Louis 13 was enthroned.

Catherine had two critical jobs to battle for:

1. Secure and maintain the French dynasty of Les Valois through her sons

2. Avoid any excuses for Spain King Phillip 2 to invade France. Phillip 2 was the most powerful and wealthiest monarch in western Europe.

Actually, Catherine denied the Spanish troops permission to cross France in order to enter and occupy Belgium and the Netherlands

Some how, her immature sons took advantage of their mother’s worries and priorities by allying with French factions against King Phillip’s Catholic policies and constituted coalitions of princes opposing Catherine policies of neutrality.

The eldest son Charles 9 was cruel, brutal and a nitwit. He was tightly linked to admiral Gaspard de Coligny (a Huguenot Protestant sect) and they were scheming to form an army and harass the Spanish troops in Belgium.

That was a red line that Coligny should have not crossed for Catherine, and she decided to assassinate de Coligny

The attempt failed and the admiral was just wounded. Catherine knew that the fingers will point to her and she hurriedly met with her son King Charles 9 for the entire night, figuring a way out of that mess to avoid a civil war.

Finally Charles gave up and screamed “Kill him, kill them all”

Her son Henry gave the job to his great friend, the catholic prince Henry de Guise who insisted on waging wars on the Huguenots. De Guise didn’t wait for the green light and attacked the Huguenot early morning.

What was supposed to decapitate the leaders of this sect, turned out a massive massacre. The genocide in Paris lasted 3 days and 4 nights and then it spread to the provinces for months. After the massacre, on the 4th day, the shopkeepers, butchers and common people returned to their jobs as if nothing happened.

The insane and cruel Charles 9 lost it completely after this tragedy and stayed in his castle blowing his horns as if going hunting and screaming from the top of his head. He died at the age of 34.

Her second son Henry was her favourite. There were negotiation of marrying Henry to Elizabeth I of England that faltered because henry believed the rumors in France circles that Elizabeth was the “whore of London”

For a brief winter, Henry was pressured to travel to Poland in order to rule this country as its monarch, but he fled with his French companions and travelled across Europe, Venice and other Italian cities.

Henry’s passion as a young man was designing clothes and appointed himself the cloth designer in all ceremonies. He even designed what his brother-in law Henry of Navarre wore during his wedding. 

When Charles 9 died, Henry became King Henry III who was unstable and frequently whipped himself all night longs for forgiveness and chastisement. He brought wild animals and imprisoned them in a deep hole. One day he decided to kill a lion in the hole and then let the wild beasts devour one another.

His old friend Henry de Guise was receiving regular amount of money from Phillip II of Spain to destabilize France and keep it in constant civil war. And he set his mind to grab the throne since he was the most popular figure in Paris. De Guise was tall, svelte, handsome, blonde and rich.

In the nick of time, Henry III decided to flee to the Castle of Chartres in order not to be kept prisoner in Paris. It is there that Henry III receive intelligence that the Spanish Armada was destroyed and the attempt to invade England failed.

Eventually, Henry drew de Guise to his Palace and assassinated him by his Pretorian guards, along with de Guise’s brother the young Cardinal of Lorraine.  Pretorian guards or spadassins of 45 in number were from Gascoigne and headed by Du Guast. Catherine was dying during this assassination in another room.

And what of Catherine’s youngest son Francois?

Francois was fragile in health and eventually died of tuberculosis at the age of 30.

The king of Scotland sent his kid daughter Marie Stuart to Paris to live and be educated in the French court. Marie is the future  Queen of Scotland whom her cousin Elizabeth I would incarcerate in a London dungeon and decapitate her 8 years later.

Marie and Francois were inseparable, played together and were in love.

When Catherine husband Henry II was seriously injured, the surgeons were experimenting with “”live subjects” in order to discover the best way to perform the surgery on the dying Henry. Catherine forced Marie to watch the bloody surgery on one of the live person so that Marie learn “what it takes to be a queen

Until Marie had to leave France at the age of 18 after her father died. Marie never returned to France.

Francois gave his mother plenty of worries and troubles. He frequently disappeared from the screen of Catherine in order to form coalitions opposing either his brother Henry III or to fight the Spanish troops in Belgium.

Francois even paid a visit to London to rally Elizabeth I to his cause. He was a frequent visitor to Elizabeth’s bedroom until she got fed up and kicked him out of her bed, room and England.

Francois spent his last year leading an army in Belgium, occupying a town one day and losing another the next day.

Catherine had to criss-cross France several times and for a couple of years each time and way into her 60’s. Many of those long trips were meant to find her sons lost from her screen of control and who were complotting and joining coalitions (Ligues).

In her old age, she had to travel across France at the demands of  her immature sons of kings who were reluctant and unable to perform much of anything of value or to negotiate any peace treaty.

And Catherine was feared, respected, and admired for her abilities, steadfastness and clear visions by all the factious princes.

Catherine relied on her “Girls” the “Flying Spies” to gather critical pieces of intelligence of the creation of inside coalitions among the princes and managed to disperse or decapitate in the bud many alliances that constituted a threat to the throne of the Valois dynasty or which could invite foreign powers to attack France..

Catherine managed to maintain the integrity of France and avoided to intervene militarily outside France.

She was the Regent, in-power or effectively for 40 years and was the doyen (Dean) of the Western European monarchies  for several decades.

If it were not for her deceiving and deceitful sons of kings and her useless daughters, France would have witnessed the best powerful Queen they ever had.

She died before she could save Henry 3 who had accumulated enemies through his reckless decisions.

Catherine was a real genius in politics and statesmanship.

Mostly, real geniuses come from the pool of early orphaned persons

Note 1: Read the French book of Michel Peyramaure 

Note 2: In these centuries, absolute monarchies agreed to sign “peace treaties” when these 3 conditions were satisfied:

1. One of the monarch is feeling the weight of age and is terribly reluctant to go out on a long adventure

2. The treasury is bankrupt

3. Civil wars about to break out if one of the sons is vying for the throne

At this junction, the monarch gets busy “selling off” to the highest bidder his daughters and sons to kings and princes.

If the negotiations do not replenish the treasury, at least temporary truces are to be expected.

Soon enough, one of the sons snatches the throne, and being too anxious for adventure, more wars are ignited and the cycle is closed.

Sure, a historian can amass plenty of other causes to explain and validate the ridiculous frequent wars and skirmishes, but the simplest overwhelming reason is related of” totally bored young monarchs” with plenty of energy to spend outside of hunting parties.

Behind Barbed Wire, Shakespeare Inspires a Cast of Young Syrians

On a rocky patch of earth in this sprawling city of tents and prefab trailers, the king, dressed in dirty jeans and a homemade cape, raised his wooden scepter and announced his intention to divide his kingdom.

His elder daughters, wearing paper crowns and plastic jewelry, showered him with false praise, while the youngest spoke truthfully and lost her inheritance.

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan.

So began a recent adaptation here of “King Lear.”

For the 100 children in the cast, it was their first brush with Shakespeare, although they were already deeply acquainted with tragedy.

All were refugees who had fled the civil war in Syria. Some had seen their homes destroyed. Others had lost relatives to violence. Many still had trouble sleeping or jumped at loud noises.

And now home was here, in this isolated, treeless camp, a place of poverty, uncertainty and boredom.

Reflecting the demographics of Syria’s wider refugee crisis, more than half of the 587,000 refugees registered in Jordan are younger than 18, according to the United Nations. About 60,000 of those young people live in the Zaatari camp, where fewer than a quarter regularly attend school.

Parents and aid workers fear that Syria’s war threatens to create a lost generation of children who are scarred by violence and miss vital years of education, and that those experiences and disadvantages will follow them into adulthood.

The “King Lear” performance, the conclusion of a project than spanned months, was one attempt to fight that threat.

“The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,” said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor known at home for his role in “Bab al-Hara,” an enormously popular historical drama that was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

The play owed its production largely to Mr. Bulbul. Smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and speaking with the animated face of a stage actor who never stops performing, Mr. Bulbul described his journey from television star to children’s director.

When the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011, he joined with gusto, appearing at antigovernment protests, leading chants and drawing the ire of the security services. A play he produced was banned, and a fellow actor who supported the government informed him that he could either appear on television to rectify his stance or expect to be arrested.

“I told him I would think about it, and a week later I was out of the country,” Mr. Bulbul said.

Last year, he and his French wife moved to Jordan, where friends invited him to help distribute aid in Zaatari. The visit exposed him to what he called “the big lie” of international politics that had failed to stop the war.

There are people who want to go home, and they are the victims while the great powers fight above them,” he said.

Children he met in the camp made him promise to return, and he did — with a plan to show the world that the least fortunate Syrian refugees could produce the loftiest theater.

The sun blazed on the day of the performance, staged on a rocky rectangle of land surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire. The 12 main actors stood in the middle, while the rest of the cast stood behind them, a chorus that provided commentary and dramatic sound effects. The audience sat on the ground.

When each of Lear’s first two daughters tricked him with false flattery in elegant, formal Arabic, the chorus members yelled “Liar! Hypocrite!” until the sisters told them to shut up.

And when the third sister refused to follow suit, the chorus members yelled “Truthful! Just!” until the king told them to shut up.

Continue reading the main story  Video

PLAY VIDEO.  VIDEO|5:35.  Syrian Refugees Cross Into Uncertainty

Refugees fleeing fighting in Syria in May, 2013, relocated to the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan where they face dusty days and cold nights in an uncertain existence with no end in sight.

In later scenes, the king was heckled by the Fool, who wore a rainbow-colored wig, and 8 boys performed a choreographed sword fight with lengths of plastic tubing.

A few scenes from “Hamlet” were spliced in, making the story hard to follow. And at one point, a tanker truck carrying water roared by, drowning out the actors and coating the audience in a cloud of dust.

But the mere fact that the play was performed was enough for the few hundred spectators. Families living in nearby tents brought their children, hoisting them on their shoulders so they could see.

After Lear’s descent into madness and death, the cast surrounded the audience, triumphantly chanting “To be or not to be!” in English and Arabic. The crowd burst into applause, and a number of the leading girls broke into tears. Mr. Bulbul said they were overwhelmed because it was the first time anyone had clapped for them.

After the show, as journalists interviewed the cast, the parents boasted of their children’s talent.

“I am the mother of King Lear,” declared Intisar al-Baradan when asked if she had seen the play. She had brought about 20 relatives to the performance, she said, adding that her son was also a great singer.

Other parents described the project as a rare point of light in a bleak camp existence.

Hatem Azzam, whose daughter Rowan, 12, played one of Lear’s daughters, said the family fled Damascus after government forces set his carpentry shop on fire.

“We were a rebellious neighborhood, so they burned every shop on the street,” Mr. Azzam said.

He arrived in Zaatari a year ago with 5 other family members, but one of his brothers got sick and died soon afterward, and his elderly mother never adjusted to the desert climate and died, too, he said.

He hesitated to send his children to school, fearing that they would get sick in the crowded classrooms, and he kept them from roaming the camp because he did not want them to start smoking or pick up other bad habits. But the theater project was close to home, and his daughter was so excited about it that he let her go.

People get opportunities in life, and you have to take advantage of them,” Mr. Azzam said. “She got a chance to act when she was young, so that could make it easier for her in the future.”

The mother of Bushra al-Homeyid, 13, who played another of Lear’s daughters, said the family had fled Syria after government shelling killed her niece and nephew.

“The camp is an incomplete life, a temporary life,” she said. “We hope that our time here will be limited.”

But after a year here, she worried that her eldest daughter, who was in high school, would not be ready to go to college.

Bushra, grinning widely and still wearing her yellow paper crown, said she had never acted before but wanted to continue.

“I like that I can change my personality and be someone else,” she said.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,397,840 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 743 other followers

%d bloggers like this: