Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Bard

I just received an unexpected and interesting call from a female acquaintance that lives in Saint Petersburg. She got my number from a friend that I had worked with for 6 years.

What was most interesting about the call is that she remembered that it is going to be my birthday in 3 days. She also recalled a conversation that we had some years ago about my love for the theater and Shakespeare. She was inviting out to see Othello this Tuesday; the anniversary of my birth. I told her that I would think about it and would give her a call back.

I was being honest when I said “I would think about it”. Usually when I say that I will think about it, it means no way in Hell!

The last live theater production that I saw was Cats in the mid 1980’s. The last time I saw a production of a Shakespeare play was in the 1960’s before I went into the Army.

In High School, I hated my first forced reading of Shakespeare. It was Macbeth and was required reading in my first semester sophomore English class. What a drag for a 14 year old. What tedious reading, almost as bad as having to read Thoreau’s Walden!

It was announced in the syllabus of the second semester sophomore English class that we would be reading two more plays by the “Bard of Avon”. I had never seen so many frowns on the faces of my classmates (except those from the girls in my Freshman Biology class when we were told that we would be dissecting a Frog).

The first play we read was Hamlet. I liked this play much better than I did Macbeth. It was probably because the key quotes were much easier to memorize.

The second was Twelfth Night, or What you Will. After two tragedies, a comedy was a refreshing read. As an added bonus our teacher offered to chaperon us at a local production of this play in the Chicago suburbs. It was on a Saturday afternoon and I had much better things to do on a Saturday afternoon. However my parents told me I was going on this field trip or I would be restricted. It was a tough choice, but I went.

Seeing Shakespeare preformed live is nothing similar to just reading the play. There is so much more emotion in the words that he had written. Even mediocre Shakespearean actors can make your heart jump and flutter. Your eyes are riveted on the stage and you wait for the next line to be spoken. You begin to understand why Shakespeare was as highly acclaimed as a writer as he was.

Seeing Shakespeare preformed live is like eating peanuts. You can’t stop at just one. It is a good idea to read the play before you see it. Just to know the characters and their motives. But the words mean nothing unless they are spoken and when you hear them spoken you will be enthralled. You must remember that Shakespeare wrote them to be preformed, not read.

My favorites are his historical plays and his comedies. One of my favorites is Henry V. An excellent production of this play was brought to the screen by Kenneth Branagh; it was almost as exciting as seeing it performed live in the theater.

When Harry the King delivers his emotion packed speech to his men before Battle of Agincourt, it reminds me of my time spent in the military and the lasting friendship and brotherhood that I had established:

We would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us. This day is called the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, and rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words- Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester- Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red. This story shall the good man teach his son; and Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

The Beach Bum

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Anonymous Richard Feder, Ft Lee said...

I recall my English teacher recommending that to really pick up what Willy S. was laying down was to read the play whilst listening to a recording of that particular play. Of course back in those days we did not have DVDs or videos, but we did have LPs. Mind you, no one that I knew had a collection of Shakespearean LPs
mixed in with their Ray Mancini collection, but the Main Branch of our Library certainly did.

The teacher also recommended that if you were going to follow the written word, it would be worth while to do so with a partner so you could discuss your perceptions of the differences of the written word to those of the spoken word. Good idea as it turned out.

I asked one of my classmates, Julie K., if she wanted to use this method of study . . . and she agreed.

The play was Romeo & Juliet.

Thank you William Shakespeare . . . Thank you ever so much.

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