If Keats had lived--

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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If Keats had lived--

Postby redan » Tue May 09, 2006 4:54 am

If I could go back in a time machine to save ONE writer with some tragical now curable disease, Keats is third on my list. Proust first, a huge cooler full of steroids for the asthma.... Austen second, another cooler full or adreneline [I really wish she could have finished Sanditon]. Keats third, six months worth of antibiotics....

No reason to believe Keats wouldn't have turned into an old twit like Wordsworth.... Writers have careers like athletes, like race horses...career literally means race track...

Would he have written a long poem to rival Milton? I doubt it. But I am always sorrowful that he never lived long enough to enjoy a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness....
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Re: If Keats had lived--

Postby Malia » Tue May 09, 2006 7:15 pm

redan wrote:Would he have written a long poem to rival Milton? I doubt it. But I am always sorrowful that he never lived long enough to enjoy a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness....


Who knows? I think if any of us could have gone back in time and provided him (early enough on in his illness) with the 2 or 3 years' worth of antibiotics he'd need to be cured of TB, he would have continued his writing and gone on from poetry to writing great plays. He said several times in his letters that his greatest ambition was to become a formidable playwrite. I think he had the ability--the understanding of human foibles (both "high and low, mean or elevated") to capture the human spirit through drama. If he could have achieved that goal, I think we'd be having Keats drama festivals right along with the Shakespearian ones, today.
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Postby redan » Tue May 09, 2006 8:15 pm

He said several times in his letters that his greatest ambition was to become a formidable playwrite. I think he had the ability--the understanding of human foibles (both "high and low, mean or elevated") to capture the human spirit through drama. If he could have achieved that goal, I think we'd be having Keats drama festivals right along with the Shakespearian ones, today.

He would never have written a decent play. All the Roman-tics were theatrical DISASTERS. Weren't the theatres still closed, anyway?[passing thought] Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Henry James, all hideous failures. The greatest dramatist since Shakespeare, Dickens, was pretty successful with productions of versions of his novels, which always opened the evening the novel was published because what there was of copyright did not apply to theatrical productions, so if you didnt put up a stage version of your novel, someone else would.
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Postby dks » Tue May 09, 2006 8:57 pm

Yes, the theaters were very open during Keats's time. Edmund Kean was a white hot celebrity/actor--playwrights were foaming at the mouth to get a play published so he could play a key role. In fact, there are dramatic studies on Kean's Iago, Shylock and Romeo.

There were quite a few great dramatists after Shakespeare...Ibsen, Tolstoy, Wilde, Barrie, Shaw, Brecht, Miller...

I think Keats could've pulled off a great drama. Furthermore, I think he could've rivaled such later dramatic masterpieces such as "Pygmalion," "A Doll's House," "Waiting for Godot," etc...
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Postby Malia » Tue May 09, 2006 10:08 pm

I agree with dks--just because Keats lived during a time of terrible dramas doesn't mean he would have fallen right in with the rest of them. I think Keats had the right kind of fire and forward-thinking intelligence to really go places with drama. He wouldn't have followed the pack--he'd have lead it in a whole new direction.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Wed May 10, 2006 5:06 am

This has me thinking about what my Romantic Lit. prof said about the Romantic poets and their ambitions for the stage. He said that Romantic poets as a whole were unsuccessful as playwrites because they were too self-obsessed. The nature of the stage requires the writer to create external characters, but the nature of Romanticism was internal, introverted. Romantic writers were all about "ME, ME, ME!" whereas a good playwrite has to be about the character he/she is creating.

That being said, if any of the Romantics might have been able to turn out into decent playwrites, Keats probably had a chance. After all, he is the one who gave us negative capability :wink: I think that if Keats would have devoted the same time and effort to developing his talent as a playwrite as he did to developing his talent as a poet, he might have been able to produce some successful plays. However, I wonder if they would have the staying power that his poems have today. :?
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Postby Saturn » Wed May 10, 2006 9:46 am

The dramas written by the romantics, while not as great as Elizabethan dramas were significantly better than the disposable rubbish that was on stage during that period.

Or, perhaps the fact that the dramas written by the romantic poets were preserved in their corpus, and those other contemporary works have not survived or their authors are not as celebrated as star names like Byron, Shelley and Coleridge means that we are more prejudiced in favour of the works of the romantics.

I'd recommend some of the plays by the Romantic poets - Coleridge's Remorse, Shelley's The Cenci and Byron's Manfred.

Shelley's Cenci in particular is an excellent play in it's own right and though not a contemporary success like Coleridge's Remorse, more than any of the other romantics's dramas it has been periodically revived and even in the 20th cenury was staged by many high profile actors such as Sir Laurence Oliver no less.
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Postby dks » Wed May 10, 2006 2:39 pm

I'm with you on that, Saturn. "The Cenci" is a great example of Romantic drama--Byron's "Manfred" is even better...both works are studied extensively within literature still today, but both were successful forms of drama.
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Re: If Keats had lived--

Postby Raphael » Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:54 pm

I think he would have been the greatest poet of his time- this was thought by some people around him too., esoecially Tennyson who said that "he would have been the greatest of us".
I like other poets of course ( Oscar Wilde, DG Rossetti, Robert Burns, Robert Frost)- but to me John Keats had something magical and immensely moving in his poetry that others have not yet quite reached. There is something extra, something indefinable that he had. Some of his words send shivers down my spine.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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