Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I wasted time, and now doth time wasted me: Re-reading Shakespeare



I tried to go into this with an open mind.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
—Hamlet

As I round-about mentioned before, one of my New Years Resolutions is to re-read the 37 plays attributed (mostly) to Shakespeare. Yep all of the histories (ya know middle-ages' version of soap operas), all those tragedies (gore and guts galore), and the cute comedies that every summer stock company in the Mid West takes on each summer. Re-read all of them. The ones I love, the ones I hate, and the ones I barely remember reading.

I've read a lot of Shakespeare. I've seen a lot of Shakespeare. I've acted a lot of Shakespeare. And as a theatre major, I've wanted to fling myself off a bridge with a lot of Shakespeare's meter. If I close my eyes, I can still recite most of my senior year audition piece ("Upon thy wedding day, Against the blood that thou hast married...) but I will try to avoid that for your sake as well as mine. This experiment wasn't to read all of Shakespeare's plays and pat myself on the back, because I've done that. I've taken all the dramaturgy classes where you dissect each and every line, had crushes on some of the ridiculous fictional characters, and  seen/read/acted in enough to be a total Shakespeare snob. Some may call me a...
...poisonous bunch-back’d toad!
Richard III

And they wouldn't be entirely wrong- for a multitude of reasons. So why am I doing it all again? Sometimes being a snob makes you stop discovering.I wanted to reread them all to see what I missed, what rings true now, and also just to get back in touch with my artistic side. Even though I work in the arts, I miss actively being part of the creative process and I thought re-reading might just re-ignite my enthusiasm. So I started to re-read.

How well he's read, to reason against reading!

Love's Labours Lost

Maybe I started too confident. I looked at my complete works book and smugly began thinking this isn't so bad!

I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed
monster. A most scurvy monster! 
--Tempest

At first, it was relaxing. A warm tea, arm chair by the window, and one of my favorites to start the resolution off- The Tempest. I laughed, I stumbled over old english, and read much of the play out loud (to my puppy's utter confusion). As the Tempest gave way to more challenging pieces, however, (I'm looking directly at you, Anthony and Cleopatra) I became a little wary of my intentions.

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.
Henry the Sixth, Part Three

Maybe I had lost my Shakespearan touch? Maybe I was confusing literary prowess for barely literate tendencies?  Maybe I should actually start that spring clearning list... this very evening? Was I even enjoying this? Do I really care if the twins realize they other twin is literally right there- if they can't figure it out, then why should I? Will I be able to stop laughing at the amount of eunuchs thrown into these plays? Am I a bad person if I wonder what kind of crazy person Cleopatra would be today and/or if I thought she would definitely be Ashley Madison's CEO? I definitely doubted why I started.

But good old Hamlet got me back on track. From the opening scene, to Ophelia's death, to the final pages- I just couldn't put something that I've read at least a half dozen times down.

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
―Hamlet

And as the pages turned, and the column of plays in the 're-read' column grew, I remembered why I loved reading these. How the language, while daunting at first, gives way to a melody that melds characters into someone you can see and feel for.

The wheel is come full circle: I am here.
—King Lear

I still love how any time someone new enters the stage all of the characters say 
How now, (insert name)
Seriously- I need to start doing that in my everyday life.
I'm also totally digging the drama of repeating, repeating, repeating the same thing
I.E. Fie, fie, fie! or Oh naught, naught, naught!
I'm pretty tempted to start responding like that in work emails from now on... just to see if it would help.

I will admit that even with the good times, I still have had quite a few moments like-

Now is the winter of our discontent
-Richard III

when I'm not sure what is going on and/or why, but then all the pieces fall into place and you understand it and feel it. So I'm a quarter of the way done and am still loving this New Years Resolution (even through the Ides of March).

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
-Hamlet

But it would be really cool if I came up with that line,
-S

2 comments:

  1. I read the mandatory plays in high school but totally didn't appreciate them. I struggled to get them and to be honest, I didn't put in a good effort. I think I would have a completely different opinion on Shakespeare of I reread it now!!
    Evelina @ Fortunate House

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  2. I remember HAVING to read these back in high school and just didn't really GET them, you know what I mean...but now I can see why you'd want to revisit them1 xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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