Apr. 23, 1998

Sonnet 94: They that have power to hurt and will do none

by William Shakespeare


Today's Reading: "Sonnet 94" ("They that have power to hurt and will do none") by William Shakespeare.

ROY ORBISON was born on this day in Vernon, Texas, 1936. He grew up in the little Texas panhandle town of Wink, and his first band was a country group named the Wink Westerners. Johnny Cash told him to sign up with Sun Records in Memphis, and he had a minor hit, "Ooby Dooby," with them in 1956. Then he joined Monument Records, put on his sunglasses, black jacket, slicked back his hair - and by the early '60s placed 22 songs in the Top 100 charts, songs like "Only the Lonely," "Dream Baby," and "Oh, Pretty Woman" where his three-octave voice sold millions of records.

It's the birthday in Stockholm, 1930, of the Swedish writer, MARGARETA EKSTROM. Her books have all been translated into English, and though she's written novels and poetry, she's best known as a short story writer, with collections like The Day I Began My Studies in Philosophy, and Death's Midwives, which came out in the 1980s. The second one contains the story "Left Alone," in which an elderly woman looks for meaning after the death of her sister.

It's the day we celebrate the birth of WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, 1564. No one is really sure about the exact date, but he was baptized on the 25th and since that usually occurred three days after birth back then, the best guess is that he was born on the 23rd. He spent his first 20 years in his hometown of Stratford-on-Avon, then made his way to London where his early plays - The Comedy of Errors, and Titus Andronicus - became hits for a company called Pembroke's Men. He wrote the plays, acted in them, and directed. Plague closed the London theaters for two years in the early 1590s, and Shakespeare turned to writing poetry. The best way for a writer back then to make a living was by dedicating long, book-length poems to royalty in hopes of getting patronage. Shakespeare wrote two big poems to the Earl of Southhampton, and the Earl kept Shakespeare afloat until the theaters opened again. He also wrote his 154 sonnets around then. Between 1596 and 1608, he created about two plays a season; tragedy, comedy, and plays based on the lives of kings and queens. His writing made him a wealthy man, and he spent his last years back in Stratford overseeing his investments in land and grain. His last play was The Tempest (Act IV):

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors
(As I foretold you) were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »