Shakespeare allusions in Jim Morrison`s poetry

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Jim Morrison (1943-1971) was one of the most educated and well-read poets of his time. He was interested in Greek drama and Artaud theater and just the theater concept in itself. A born poet, signer and actor Morrison managed to reveal his talents while working as a frontman of The Doors. He didn`t just sing but acted trying this or that role of a shaman-poet, of a Greek god Dyonis, of a mythic Lizard King. Morrison was a real poet-performer, he created his own tragedy in his mind and through his poetry he dramatized his inner feelings and emotions.

Though Morrison preferred the epic theater of Brecht and the Theater of Cruelty of Artaud to traditional theater associated with Shakespeare for the latter lacks the possibility of involving the spectator into the action as a participant of a certain rite, Morrison respected greatly Shakespeare`s works and while reading Wilderness we can`t but find lots of Shakespeare allusions in his poetry.

In Ode to LA while thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased Morrison writes:

I’m a resident of a city
They’ve just picked me to play
the Prince of Denmark…

The poet feels himself a Hamlet – and that may seem old-fashioned and even banal but the thing is that the existential problem of to-be-or-not-to-be is actually the only one worth mentioning in poetry. Death may surely be called one of the central problems in Morrison`s poetry. Morrison as a true visionary poet forsaw lots of things and predicted his own death. He died a very young man at the age of 27. Image of death, the end, appears throughout his poetry. A poet feeling his end too close couln`t but asked himself whether the life was worth living, whether the life was worth being a sacrifice for a revealed truth:

…You’ve left your
Nothing
to compete w/
Silence…

Ode to LA is devoted to Brian Jones, a rock musician (The Rolling Stones) whosemysterious death in a swimming pool influenced Morrison and provoked him to writing a poem languorous with images of water, pools, trampling board and dead bodies:

…Poor Ophelia

All those ghosts he never saw
Floating to doom
On an iron candle

Come back, brave warrior
Do the dive
On another channel

Hot buttered pool
Where’s Marrakesh
Under the falls
the wild storm
where savages fell out
in late afternoon
monsters of rhythm…

Shakespeare`s Ophelia may have some resemblence to Brian Jones and even to Morrison`s own death as he died in a bathroom in Paris in 1971. The official version was heart attack. Applying Morrison`s death to the poem makes the latter twice more terrifying:

Ophelia

Leaves, sodden
in silk

Chlorine
dream
mad stifled
Witness

The diving board, the plunge
The pool

You were a fighter
a damask musky muse

You were the bleached
Sun
for TV afternoon

horned-toads
maverick of a yellow spot

Look now to where it’s got
You

in meat heaven
w/the cannibals
& jews

The gardener
Found
The body, rampant, Floating

Lucky Stiff
What is this green pale stuff
You’re made of

Poke holes in the goddess
Skin

Will he Stink
Carried heavenward
Thru the halls
of music

No chance.

Requiem for a heavy
That smile
That porky satyr’s
leer
has leaped upward

into the loam

Another important image in Morrison`s poetry is the Far Arden. Far Arden is known to the reader from Shakespeare`s As You Like It. In Morrison`s poetry Far Arden symbolizes freedom, joy and music, it is a mystic forest where songs and dances rule:

Ladies & gentlemen:
please attend carefully to these words & events
It’s your last chance, our last hope.
In this womb or tomb, we’re free of the
swarming streets.
The black fever which rages is safely
out those doors
My friends & I come from
Far Arden w/dances, &
new music
Everywhere followers accure
to our procession.
Tales of Kings, gods, warriors
and lovers dangled like
jewels for your careless pleasure

(he enters stage)

The poet tries a role of a middle age minstrel, a vagabond, a wanderer, who chose his life be an ever feast of life. Tales of kings and queens attract Morrison`s imagination. He admires the illusion of harmony in Shakespeare`s world:

Under the moon
Beneath the stars
They reel & dance
The young folk

Led to the Lake
by a King & Queen

O, I want to be there
I want us to be there
Beside the lake
Beneath the moon
Cool & swollen
dripping its hot
liquor

(Signals)

A poet of the XXth century, when a man was left alone, when the death of the god was officially proclaimed and life was changed for existence with no aim in life, Shakespeare`s Far Arden stands for middle age utopia, a world of fiction and illusions, a beautiful forest where young folk sing and dance and the poet would gladly plump for this world of dreams.

Traditionally Shakespeare`s images are reflected intertextually in the works of the poets of the following centuries. Morrison as a poet of tradition contributed this tendency greatly. He interpreted Shakespeare`s images through his own scope of vision of a poet born in the XXth century whose poetic style was worked out on the base of existential philosophy combined with the tradition of visionary poets, Indian religion and American avant-garde of the 1950-60s.

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