“Shakespeare – the nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God.” –Laurence Olivier
I got my first book of Shakespeare’s plays in middle school. I won’t pretend that I could actually read them, but they waited for me. The best stories do that. And Shakespeare told the best stories.
When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to play Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d like to think I did well. Whether I did or not, I enjoyed just being able to take part in a little piece of Shakespeare’s world.
Yeah, that’s me, in high school, trying to claw out Helena’s eyes. I’m not sure why the guy behind me is wearing an M&M shirt. High school’s a strange time.
In college, I decided to study literature, and read a paper at a Shakespeare conference at the Virginia Military Institute. My paper…did not win, but again, I felt fortunate to just be involved.
I still read Shakespeare. Pretty frequently, in fact. I’m not going to wax poetic about Shakespeare’s influence on…well, everything…because I don’t know that I could cover it all in one blog post. I think the most wonderful thing about Shakespeare’s body of work is just how interdisciplinary and universal it is – there’s something for the readers, the psychologists, the sociologists, the historians, the philosophers, and, of course, the actors. There’s even a little something for the conspiracy theorists. There’s a reason Shakespeare is still with us, hundreds of years after his death and several evolutions of our language later. Very few writers observe and capture so well all of the best and the worst of humanity.
And so, today, on the day that we celebrate the birthday of the Bard, and in the spirit of the theatre, revelry, and bringing literature to life – and embracing our own flawed humanity – here’s my Shakespeare:
I probably should have warned you that I’m no actor. But, come on, everyone recites Shakespeare when they drink wine, right? RIGHT?! Anyway, you don’t have to be a great actor to enjoy Shakespeare. He gave all of us plenty to love, whether we experience it on the stage or on the page.
And there’s something comforting about knowing that long after I’m gone, and hopefully this video is, too, Shakespeare will still be here.
5 thoughts on “Share Your Shakespeare”
I do sincerely applaud your love of the old bard but my gripe with Shakespeare is the language. All of the great artists, composers and writers pushed the boundaries, and Shakespeare was no different. The problem is that we feed this to our school children telling them it’s brilliant and though some of them are bright enough to see through the olde worlde language, most are just baffled and it turns them off for life. I suppose my complaint is really with the way the arts in general are taught in our schools. Don’t tell the kids it’s brilliant; tell them it’s pretty inaccessible, get them to work out their own version of it and go on a journey of self discovery. At music college, we had teachers who could find deep meanings in the back of a cornflake packets, and it took me years to realise that there is nothing wrong in not liking something, which when you are young is not as obvious as it sounds; you always tend to think it’s your fault and you’re just not ‘intelligent’ enough. Sorry for the rant….
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There’s no need to apologize, at all! I actually agree with you, on several points. (And even if I didn’t, you still wouldn’t need to apologize for sharing your thoughts.) I love Shakespeare’s language, but I’m a language person. I spent a lot of time studying the history of the English language, and so I love to read texts that demonstrate how it’s changed and evolved, and continues to change as we do. But I agree that it’s not helpful, and can actually be really discouraging, to just tell a student that something is brilliant, and not take into account that they might struggle with learning and understanding it. And I’ve met lots of armchair academics who love to dig for symbolism and deeper meaning in every piece of work ever created, and who seem to believe that if you don’t do the same, you’re not smart or curious – I don’t really enjoy spending time with them. I think there’s something in Shakespeare for everyone, but the truth is, the language is a barrier, and a good teacher (or a good friend) should help and encourage, not just pay lip service. That’s the nature of the arts, generally, that not every creation will speak to every person. The beauty of the arts is that they exist anyway, and are always there for people to discover and explore, when the time’s right. And if it never is, that’s fine, because there’s something out there for everyone.
The mark of a good comment – I’ve been thinking about this all day. It really is sad when children come to think that they’re not smart enough to engage with difficult material, especially in the arts. I wonder how many children have turned away from the arts entirely because of how Shakespeare was approached and presented in their classrooms. I grew up in a rural area of Virginia where there wasn’t a ton of money to invest in schools, and where, for many children, the only exposure they ever got to the arts was an hour or so in school every day. That’s not really an environment conducive to studying and enjoying any kind of creative endeavor. I don’t fault parents – in coal country Virginia, you do what you have to do to survive and feed your family – but I certainly find fault with a system of funding and education that allows students to fail, and that preferences test scores over real, tangible engagement (which is a whole other issue). Now I’ve ranted a bit. I’ll probably still be thinking of this hours from now. Thank you so much for your comment!
Well I re-visited Shakespeare a few years after school and while I thought it was good, I didn’t see the “greatness” in it at that time. Every few years I have re-entered Shakespeare’s world – whether it be to see a play or read, but still I failed to see the “greatness”. That was until recently – I saw a few Shakespeare plays via online streaming (due to the lockdown) and explored the texts and I am astounded with the writing, with his insight into humanity – how could one person, 400 years ago, understand people so well? His work contains so much wisdom, so many fundamental questions, and is still completely relevant now.
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It’s awesome that you stuck with it! I love that! I truly believe that stories (and paintings, and plays, and creative things generally) come to us when we’re ready.
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