April 23 is the day of Shakespeare’s death (in 1616), and sometimes considered as the day of his birth as well, although records only indicate when he was baptized ( Apr 26, 1564), not born. In honor of the Bard of Avon (or perhaps just as a piece of Bardolatry), a few bits about my admiration of Shakespeare:
My Shakespeare Bucket List: I am surprised to learn that the phrase Bucket List, which is often heard, is not known to have existed before the 2007 Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie of the same name. The term from which it is derived, kick the bucket has been around since 1785. (See here and here, and lots of other google-able places.) It doesn’t seem far-fetched to me that this would gain popularity so quickly, especially since there have been so many variations of the 1000 Things to Do Before You Die books published in recent years. Having a list of things to accomplish, though, is not a new idea.
I have lots of things that I would like to do some day, but I’ve not codified many of them. However, since I was a college student, there is one thing that I’ve always thought that I would like to accomplish: read the complete works of Shakespeare — 38 plays, 154 sonnets, 2 long poems that I didn’t stay awake past the opening lines while reading in college — and see all of the plays in performance at least once. I’m not sure of a specific date when I decided that this would be a goal, and I haven’t been very diligent about working towards accomplishing it, but it’s always been an idea I’ve had. Last year, before I attended the RSC plays performed in New York, I decided to begin to track how close I was to accomplishing this goal. The answer: not very close. At least, not yet.
In 2011, I did see some plays that I had never seen before (Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV Part I & II, & A Comedy of Errors) and read two plays (Romeo & Juliet, MacBeth). Since I haven’t read another play since last summer, I think it is time that I pick up the Shakespeare brick I own (The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Second Edition, Edited by Jowett, Montgomery, Taylor & Wells) and read another. Any votes for which play I should read next?
Shakepeare on Film: Not willing to read the Complete Works? How about watching a film? Here are two lists of notable Shakespearean plays or adaptations.
What about seeing a movie about how Shakespeare’s works have impacted others, such as Shakespeare Behind Bars, or Ian McKellan’s Acting Shakespeare. Or watch The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged by the Reduced Shakespeare Company for a very funny synopsis of his works. Want a little controversy? You can watch Rolland Emmerich’s Anonymous. Although it has to stretch quite a few facts (and isn’t very honest about which ones it does) to make it work, it presents a theory as to who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. I liked the movie as a movie, but find its theory about the Earl of Oxford laughable. I hold fast to the theory that William Shakespeare did not write the plays, but some other guy named William Shakespeare. 🙂 Actually I don’t care who wrote them as I think it is unprovable and really not of much importance, but the theories are an interesting diversion.
All of these films are available on Netflix.
A favorite Shakespearean Passage: Jacques’ speech in As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puling in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. last scene of all,
That ends this strange, eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
Jacques can seem such a downer in such a joyous play, but he is spot on with his observations. Act 2 ends soon after those lines, but the beginning of Act 3 has these lines from the love-sick Orlando:
Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love;
And thou thrice-crowned queen of night, survey
With thy chaste eye, from the pale sphere above,
Thy huntress’ name that my full life doth sway.
O Rosalind, these trees shall be my books,
And in their barks my thoughts I’ll character
That every eye which in this forest looks
Shall see thy virtue witnessed everywhere.
Run, run Orlando; carve on every tree
The fair, the chaste, and unexpressive she!
And such is life: frivolity and wisdom, the good and the sad, love and death, the inevitable. It makes me smile.
My Best Bard Memorabilia: I had a button with a likeness of Shakespeare on it. It read “Will Power”. I bought it in Stratford on Avon in 1980. I still had it last summer when I saw the RSC perform and wore it to the performances I attended. I tried to find it yesterday, hoping to snap a photo of it for this post. Can’t seem to recall where I last left it.
This post is part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is S. Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. You can find other A to Z participants by clicking on the graphic. You’ll find an index of all of my A to Z blog posts here.