Tuesday, April 17, 2007

William Shakes Me

It’s wild how reading something so foreign to one’s normal mode of thinking and talking and talking and thinking, can yet feel like coming home.
That’s the wonder of reading this guy named William Shakespeare.
Often, when I am asked, “Who is your favorite author?” I hesitate…. as though I have never pondered such a profound question.
As though the best answer may have changed, since the last time I was asked.
What’s to think about?
The guy’s name is Willy!
My greatest shame involves not having read even half of him yet.
But every time I open Shakespeare up, I feel that there is so little time, so little time left, and none, none to waste.
Just tonight, I began reading Antony & Cleopatra.

Right off the bat, in Act 1, Scene ii, a messenger [today it would be a brown-suited UPS guy…. no, an email… no, something on your Blackberry] comes up to Antony, announcing that Antony’s wife Fulvia has died.
“The nature of bad news infects the teller,” says the messenger.
In other words, “It saddens me to have to tell you this, sir…..”

Antony immediately responds:
“When it concerns the fool or coward. On.
Things that are past are done, with me. ‘Tis thus:
Who tells me true, though in his tale lie death,
I hear him as he flattered.”

I am not even going to paraphrase what Antony is saying there.
Because nothing could be more already clear.
Sometimes I wonder if it would not be worth returning to the Age of the Bubonic Plague, just to return to the Age when peasant folks, who earned three pennies in the past year, would not scratch their heads as to what Antony is saying there.
Beautiful stuff.
Ye shake me!


Haley-O said...

Ooooo! I love Antony and Cleopatra! It's one of my faves of Shakespeare's historical plays. Great post! :)

cipriano said...

So good to hear from you.
Isn't it grand? William.... oh Bill!
How did he do what he did?
Do you know that he wrote this one, and Macbeth, AND King Lear... in a 14-month period of time?
Like in the past 14 months.... seriously, I have not even WASHED THE DISHES IN MY SINK!

The guy was obviously knickers-deep into the magic mushrooms!

Merisi's Vienna For Beginners said...

I am all with you on Shakespeare, and I love his wicked sense of humour (he hits all the right buttons with me *g*). Have you seen my pictures with the Shakespeare quotes about dreams (well, I sneaked one Henry James in)?
Going to a Shakespeare play is always risky business, don't you agree? Nothing worse in life than a bad actor or actress massacring The Master. I got terribly homesick when I read that Geraint Wyn Davies is again playing Richard III at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington DC. He must be what Shakespeare would have wanted for that title role. I can hear him still in my ear and the wit he can wring out of this tragic role, unforgettable (I was not the only one who broke out in a fit of laughing every now and then when that tragic hero ... well ... *g*). Should you ever be in DC, try to catch a play there.
Here's a link:

cipriano said...

The only Shakespearean-y place I have been is Stratford, as in ONTARIO, CANADA!
Saw The Tempest there..... and it was VERY good.
I just LOVE everything Shakespeare.
Would love to see "Hamlet" [my favorite play] LIVE!
May I live that long.

Amanda said...

I had NO appreciate for Shakepeare in high school when I was being forced to consume his work. Now, looking back, I really did enjoy his humorous plays...much more than the tragic plays. :-)

Merisi's Vienna For Beginners said...

Remember Alice Munro's short story "Tricks"? Robin went to see "Antony and Cleopatra" at Stratford (in Mundro's "Runaway" stories).
May you live long, to see Shakespeare plays over and over (I don't know what's the custom in Canada, here in Austria friends of mine travel three and more hours by train to see a play in Vienna or wherever, and then back home through the night, back to work the next morning).

Beth said...

Do you ever read Shakespeare aloud? That's such a great way to get even more out of those amazing words, lines - everything.
(And so what if someone overhears you - they should be so lucky...)

Anonymous said...

Beth, that's a great suggestion. In fact, I think that King Bookpuddle should decree the reading aloud of a sonnet every morning in his kingdom. Who knows what merriment might ensue?

As for the reading aloud, Shakespeare's audiences went to "hear" a play, rather than to see one. The best seats were practically on top of the stage.
I have been to (Sam Wannamaker's marvelous project) the London Globe and thought I would swoon from reverential vapors.

There is a fabulously talented and innovative group out of Staunton, Virginia, who takes shows on the road. Staunton is the home of Shenandoah Shakespeare Express and the re-created Blackfriars theater - which is located right downtown next to the law offices and what have you. It's wild to see this ponderous building looming above modern architecture.

I have seen this troupe many times and they are fabulous, putting on productions with very little costuming or scenery.

It is my belief that the ear gradually attunes to the language of Shakespeare in a good production, and that he can be understood by all of us mortals.

I once took students to a National Shakespeare production of Hamlet. The auditorium was packed with "normal" American mall-obsessed kids. But when the lights went down, they all quieted...and when Hamlet entered, an audible gasp could be heard. These kids cheered and were silent in all the right spots.

Envigorating...when (as merisi suggests) it is done well.

The play's the thing!

Cold Molasses said...

Okay...I'll say it. I'm sure there are some of us out there who are thinking it. I can't do it! Can't read Shakespeare. Just that little line that you put in Cip...I read it 3 times and had to think hard and even then it wasn't completely clear to me.

Now I'm no genius, but I'm not a dummy. So peasant folk or not...if it makes me scratch my head that much, it's not for me. I'll have to look for the movie version, I guess.


Literalicious said...

Ahhhh, the bard is one I can talk about! I took a Shakespeare course in college, and aside from having a freak of a prof, I loved it. Twelfth Night was one of my faves. We had to act out a scene from a play, and also memorize one of the sonnets.

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate...

Great stuff!

cipriano said...

Amanda, oh do open up a nice volume of Shakespeare, and get re-immersed. I guarantee, you will like him more when reading him uncoerced!

Merisi, Tricks is my favorite story in that collection, but I had altogether forgotten that Robin was going to see A & C in the story.
I would travel three hours to see a good production of a Shakespeare play, oh yes.

Beth, I can't say as I read Shakey aloud too often. I do like sometimes reciting Sonnet 116 though [my favorite lines in all of Poemdom].

Anonymous, do you suggest that I go out onto the balcony and preach love-sonnetry to the pigeons? That would be my only audience around here!
I envy your being at the Globe, I really do.
Next time.... remember your King!
Or else!
"Off wi' yore 'ead!"

Cold Molasses, I encourage you to look into some.... Shakespearean helps, as it were. I use them, too!
Like, in your case, perhaps you may need to start with one of those big yellow books... you know the series?
"Shakespeare For Du......." no, I won't say it!

Literalicious, ahh... so nice to see one so smitten with Barditis! Someone so Bardolatrous!
Isn't he grand?
I was just leafing through Twelfth Night.... LAST night, at the bookstore, and thinking... "I want to read this!"

Merisi's Vienna For Beginners said...

I am so proud of my excellent memory. *giggle*
Earnestly, "Tricks" is also my favorite story, they tenderest love story ever (leave everything else out for readers who still have not read Alice Munro's RUNAWAY, whom I would tell, go buy it now!).

Matt said...

The favorite author is always a baffling question for me. It implies different meanings:

a) the current favorite author
b) the all-time favorite author
c) does that mean you have read all of the favorite author's works

I say it's time conditional. It depends on what your mood guides you. I usually say Dostoevsky because I always come back to re-read his works.

Of course, when you walk into the bookstore, flip open a new book, you might as well discover a new favorite author.

So it's a work in progress.