Shakespeare was a Clippers fan

The painful warrior - Stephen Dunn

Clips Nation's literary laureate Citizen Zhiv tells us why Shakespeare's Sonnet XXV is speaking directly to Clippers fans. And you guys thought Shakespearean references in previews was a bad idea!

Editor's Note: In the Warriors preview, I included Shakespeare's Sonnet XXV, which refers to "The painful warrior". Here is the full sonnet once again, which Zhiv has kindly deconstructed for us below:

Let those who are in favour with their stars

Of public honour and proud titles boast,

Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,

Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.

Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread

But as the marigold at the sun's eye,

And in themselves their pride lies buried,

For at a frown they in their glory die.

The painful warrior famoused for fight,

After a thousand victories once foil'd,

Is from the book of honour razed quite,

And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd:

Then happy I, that love and am beloved

Where I may not remove nor be removed.

**********

Had a moment of solid enthusiasm when it was suggested that the new tag might be literary, but now I'm all a-tizzy at this first installment, a Shakespearean sonnet. SP setting up the home opener like this makes up, I think, for the Clippers horrendous effort in their first game. Okay, maybe not, but let's do this! Anyone up for a bit of literary analysis? Come on, play along!

Does the sonnet not speak to the Clippers' specific dilemma in the first game? And an only slightly twisting read shows the path to redemption, perhaps. That's the beauty of Shakespeare, of course; he's anything and everything. Yes, the Clippers acted like they were "in favour with their stars," no doubt, as "great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread," "famoused for fight." That's exactly what I was going to call it. Nice use of "famoused," but my favourite (let's keep the "u," shall we?) tricky verb is "unlook'd" in the fourth line; that one takes some work to unpack.

How best to read and figure out a sonnet? A lot of Shakespeare's sonnets go out of their way to confuse you, especially us contemporary commoners working with the twitter machine who like, you know, don't keep track of the words so good. The first step is just making it through the first time, getting to the end. Can't feel bad at all when you read the last line and say to yourself "huh?" Next step is to go back to those two lines at the end, the final couplet. It always sums things up and tells you what the hell the Bard was just talking about, more or less. Three quatrains (4 lines) and a couplet (2 lines, duh), makes your classic 14 line sonnet, also known as Shakespearean. Next step: read that bad boy out loud! I swear to god, it's really helpful. Go ahead, try it. The iambic pentameter that SP mentioned makes it easy, once you get the hang of it, because "it clops along nicely just like a horse" (that's ip, if you're paying attention.) There are a few quirks that take some practice, mostly adding a syllable on an -ed ending here and there: "razed" is two syllables in line 11, for instance, as "beloved" is three syllables in line 13. But reading it out loud one time helps you on your way to figuring out what's going on.

Shakespeare's sonnets are all about love and private transcendence, set against the trappings and swiftly passing beauties and accomplishments of the world. Lots of roses, methinks, the exquisite flower that has its day and then wilts and dies. He mixes it up with his flowers here, however, as he talks about "lucky" people who are accomplished and celebrated in the world, and compares them to marigolds, which have a great color and "fair leaves," love to bask in the sun, but their transient glory can disappear in a frown (bad weather; opponent making 3s). The "painful warrior" is literally that, a warrior who is in constant pain because he has been in so many fights ("a thousand victories"; training camp and preseason injuries). If he loses one time-hey there Clipper Nation!-he's scrubbed ("razed") from the book of honour completely ("quite.") It's tough out there.

So yes, the Clippers thought that they were in favour with their stars. (That's their destiny, which is read in the stars; not that CP3 and BG were happy with them because of their contracts.) But let's look at that "I" and think about ourselves. Apparently I didn't bother to "look for joy" in "that I honour most," that is, the thing that is best and most true about the Clippers. Why are we all citizens of this humble nation? Just that, the humility, the bond, the trust that no matter how good and celebrated and starry the Clippers may be, they are still the most destitute and beleaguered of franchises. Ironically it was the evil Laker empire that donned the mantle of plucky underdog, the team with no pride, no worries, and nothing to lose. That's us! They can't have that, can't take it from us. And so lo, it came to pass that the Clippers were deeply humbled in their maiden appearance, and now we can all bow our heads in respect and state with conviction that we are nothing, that we have no glory or pride, that our riches are meaningless and of the air, and all we have is our love, for our team, our nation, and for the game.

Thus happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.

Go Clippers!

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