It's amazing how literature affects our lives. And I don't mean the latest commercial fiction novel from our favorite author that we picked up on our latest run to Barnes and Noble (guilty! That gift certificate was burning a hole in my proverbial pocket). I mean the classics that we don't even realize have somehow contributed to what we're reading today.
Take Chaucer, for example. I can practically hear you all cringing from here, but believe me, The Canterbury Tales was not that bad. Believe me when I tell you this, since I just had to read nearly all of it, in Middle English no less, for class. Chaucer basically created the standard iambic pentameter that we all associate with The Bard (that's Shakespeare, for those who've forgotten their High School English classes). Yep, ol' Wills didn't come up with that fabulous rhyming strategy all by himself. He knicked it from Geoff. Of course, Geoff wasn't innocent of his own theft. I came across several papers talking about the similarities between Chaucer and The Decameron, an Italian work by Boccacio. But there is a wit and beauty in the words Chaucer chooses that make every piece of literature from his pen strictly his own. And since there were no such things as copyrights... Is it any wonder that all those plots keep being recycled?
Chaucer wrote his poetry on vellum (which, by the way is made from sheep skin) with quill and ink. There were no spell checkers, no delete keys, not even an eraser. He scraped away layers of the vellum to change what he'd written. There were no publishers, no printing presses. Gutenberg was a long way off. Scribes copied author's words in order to distribute literature to the people who could afford to own manuscripts. Because you couldn't just walk into a bookstore - no Ye Olde Barnes and Noble around the corner from Mr Chaucer's house - and purchase a book, you had to commission a scribe to copy it out for you. And so we are left with multiple copies of Chaucer's work, most of which may not even be his own true writings. Because somewhere, somehow, someone thought they could improve on Chaucer, could add or subtract words or even whole lines of text. Even the slightest change in a single word could change the entire meaning of a tale.
So next time you walk into Ye Olde B&N and see the shelves full of glorious paperbacks and hardcovers and bargain priced novelties, think of how ol' Geoff and his pals had to write everything out by hand, wince in sympathy of his cramping fingers, and have a nice White Chocolate Mocha (nonfat, with whip) with one of those tasty pieces of cheesecake. I know I do!
A LOVE IN DISGUISE - Available NOW from
Resplendence Publishing www.Resplendencepublishing.com
Also available at www.fictionwise.com
Visit me on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/carahart71
Year 47; Day 3 - I was born in the spring. Legend tells it was the night of the time change, and the hour was the hour to spring forward, so there was a debate about which...
11 hours ago