Thursday, February 26, 2015

Let's Get Scientifical #19: From Shakespeare to Hallmark-Just Add Chocolate

Welcome to Unwritten's February blog event! Of course, this is the month of love, so I wanted to celebrate that theme as I've done in year's past. But this year, I've decided to add a scientific spin to it. All month long, talented authors from several genres will write about some aspect of love from their books as it relates to science. It could be social, psychological, biological, or anything in between. Our blog event is sponsored by "HMC by Kate", a fabulous independent jewelry crafter. Kate's giving away one of her very beautiful necklaces that I think fits our theme perfectly. She's also offering everyone who stops in a 10% discount on any item from her Etsy store. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post and check out her lovely offerings! Without further ado, please welcome our guest author:

From Shakespeare To Hallmark: Just Add Chocolate

By Alayna-Renee Vilmont

“If making love is an art
And improper courtship a crime,
The way to a true lover’s heart
Is a mixture of chocolate and rhyme.”

--- Alayna’s Deservedly Unpublished Valentine Collection

It may be a bit simplistic, but Hallmark has stumbled upon something with this observation, continuing traditions that have been around for centuries, and adding chocolate. While many have dubbed Valentine’s Day a Hallmark holiday for this very reason, the roots of using poetry as the ultimate romantic gesture stretch back to at least the Middle Ages. In the time glamourized by the stories of Lancelot and Guenevere, or Isolde and Tristan, knights and ladies were not just busy occupying themselves with liaisons that would be honoured in poetic form years later. A love poem scrawled to the object of one’s affections could be tucked neatly into one’s locket or hidden underneath a suit of armour, and served as a promise of reunification in a world where the average life span barely touched middle age.

If the fastest way to lift a woman’s skirt was to lift her spirits, preferably while sharing a glass or two of them, it was the Elizabethans who took romantic poetry and letters to another level and started a trend that would last roughly 350 years and is still kept alive by greeting card companies. In an era defined by inequality, many peasants still didn’t know how to write well, much less compose verse. Education was often considered wasted on women, yet a background in art, music, literature, and dancing were talents that made upper-class women more attractive and marriageable. Therefore, hastily scribbled verses pining over a lover were not uncommon, and were one of the only discrete and acceptable ways to inform a potential suitor of romantic interest in a society where arranged marriages were law of the land and fidelity a seldom-kept promise in people of any station

Of course, for a young man who could not rely on his looks or station to have women competing to fall into his bed, romantic verse was a tool in the art of seduction that did not discriminate. The idea of becoming a talented man’s muse or a less talented man’s object of flattery was often one not to be sneezed at, and remained that way for centuries---unless you happened to be a pragmatic heroine in a Jane Austen novel.

While many of the poems in fashion throughout Europe during the Elizabethan and Victorian eras were bawdy limericks, or thinly veiled pick-up lines, others were true works of art. More so than any other author, it is the love poems penned by William Shakespeare that live on. Shakespeare’s cranky but insightful Jacques describes the phase of being a lover as “with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow”. While Jacques mocks the convention of bad rhyme as courtship, in 2015, we are still comparing others to a summer day. Words are still sweeter when whispered in secret, in really not-so-secret from a balcony, or in the case of Roxanne and Cyrano, recited by a best friend who is single for a reason.

Did Romeo offer Juliet chocolates in a heart-shaped box while offering immortal words of love? Probably not, but chances are good that if you’ve forgotten a card with a short rhyming verse as a token of your affection, you won’t be getting any luckier than that immortal pair.


Alayna-Renee Vilmont is a freelance writer, blogger, performer, and modern-day Renaissance woman currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. This year, she did not receive a Hallmark valentine and penned this blog instead. Her first book, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, is a poetic anthology based around the many facets of human relationships and experiences. Alayna is also the voice behind Jaded Elegance: The Uninhibited Adventures Of A Chic Web Geek, which has been entertaining readers since 2000. She maintains an active presence on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and almost every other form of social media out there. She is a frequent contributor out in the blogosphere, and has a second book in the making---as soon as reality television is discontinued. Alayna has previously appeared on this site, winning last year’s flash fiction contest and contributing other guest blogs. If you’d like to follow the adventures of this modern-day wayward muse, please stop by and visit at

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1 comment:

  1. A new way to look at the rows of cards at your local drug store, as at connection to our shared past including the likes of Shakespeare


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