Published on April 21st, 2013 | by Thompson0
In conducting my research of Shakespeare’s plays, poems, and sonnets, I made some interesting discoveries. I used OpenSourceShakespeare.org to peruse all of Shakespeare’s work for use of the word “err,” and found a surprising fact that’s irrelevant to my research, but interesting nonetheless. Shakespeare’s favorite word to use was “merry” or any of its derivatives like “merriment.” There are literally hundreds of instances of its usage, but I didn’t let that get in the way of my research.
Shakespeare used “err” or any of its derivatives 74 times. It appears in nearly every play (and the title of one), seven sonnets, and three of his four poems, making me think Shakespeare had a keen interest in human error and how to handle it. But my real question is this: Was Shakespeare encouraging us to err? And that’s a question that will take much more time to answer. I have 74 passages to look into, and each passage will require me to review each play, poem, and sonnet individually in order to uncover the bearing of each “err” and whether I can assess Shakespeare’s intentions in using the term.
Also, I’d like to know whether Shakespeare was a perfectionist, because if he was that tells me he took his own errors to heart, which in turn tells me why he focused so much on errors in all his work and it would be less likely that he was encouraging his audience to err. Alina Tugend writes in Better by Mistake, “Highly perfectionist people fear making mistakes before and during a task, and they beat themselves up after they’re finished” (35). If Shakespeare beat himself up over his own errors it’s not likely he would encourage erring, but if he embraced his own errors it’s likely that would be conveyed in his writing. I’m leaning toward Shakespeare not being a perfectionist, and that may be my bias, but Will was writing for money, and I find it hard to believe a perfectionist would ever finish enough work to feed himself.
These passages will be my “portals to discovery” in regards to error and Shakespeare, and I believe they will lead me to discover that to err is Shakespeare, and he wanted us to do it often.