Friday, September 13, 2013

This happy breed of men, this little world!

No, patient reader, I do not speak of England; I speak of her Bard. I have realized today how much I miss Shakespeare being the axis mundi of my day. Today, the trailer for Richard II is released on Facebook, and more out of habit than genuine curiosity, I clicked it open. I cannot express the flood that overwhelms me! I have missed the absolute perfection of phrase, the underlying lyricism that flows through and balances those words, the well-loved, well-remembered cadences that do not require closed captions, the list goes on.

There was a time when I used to do  A Midsummer Night's Dream with students, in days of yore, when I taught Literature survey courses. I no longer do that, but when I did, I feared that my enthusiasm and excitement at the primary text would be misconstrued as an affectation or, worse, snobbery. So I'd like to take this space to establish that there is nothing snobbish about Shakespeare; there never was. He is the easiest to meet and own; the very humanism and poetry ensure this. If we learn to babble poems, lyrics, and rhymes before we can consciously string words in deliberate, coherent syntax, then nothing is easier than meeting Shakespeare. The best part of doing the Bard was how smoothly the students connected with him. What a joy that was!

Of course, my Literature courses now are more than wonderful, and they feed another starving part of me. I would never give them up at any cost (were I allowed to tally costs). And then again, doing Shakespeare can be a personal thing, an acquaintance that can be renewed as I sit here, away from students and classrooms. In fact, I would even argue for the value in meeting Shakespeare when one is not distracted by the concerns of the happy breed of men, this little world.

Before my child got too busy with her school work, I remember doing a lot of Shakespeare with her. We used to own quite a collection of plays, especially our favorite productions; we used to spend weekends, days, evenings, indulging in dream realities of Twelfth Night, arguing over which Shylock we preferred, delighting in Beatrice and Benedick's rapier exchanges, succumbing to helpless hilarity at the Rude Mechanicals' Pyramus & Thisbe, cursing out Petrucchio, and sighing at Juliet's hormone-driven decisions. Now that my child is at college, hours away, I haven't indulged in one of those sessions; it seems silly, like cooking for just oneself. What's more, our collection has burned with the house, so it also feels like an unnecessary plucking of a healing scab, which might do more harm in the long run.

However, today, I am also thinking of my father, with whom I associate my first memory of Shakespeare. I think of all the losses that my particular flesh has been heir to, and I realize that I owe the Bard much more than an association with people I miss. If it hadn't been for The TempestTwelfth Night, As You Like It, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, I would never have dared to walk upon these golden sands when I first moved here. If it hadn't been for Richard III, King Lear and Hamlet, I could not have survived any of my losses. If it hadn't been for Winter's Tale and Cymbeline, I would never have learned of the comfort that comes with losing and regaining oneself. My understanding of a large part of European history I owe to the History plays.

This morning, my good friend and I attended a training session for literacy tutors, a volunteering opportunity we are considering. It shocks me that in spite of being in school, such a large percentage of children find reading a serious challenge. I am all the more grateful to the star (that twinkled, and under that was I born) for affording me this privilege and awareness of the magic that words can weave, so that the brief candle of my life is no walking shadow.

I am grateful for the Bard, whose words help me rise from a poor player that struts and frets her hour and let me stride this  narrow world like a Colossus. This post is a shout out to Shakespeare (please forgive the alliteration). So long lives this, and this gives life to thee!


  1. Loved it. Miss not having lived Shakespeare the way you have.