December 4, 2011

Ah, maybe it's just my mood

I read this just now, and I want to do it.

The author, DG Strong, relates how during a period of unemployment and depression, he met once a month with a group in his city to read all of Shakespeare's works aloud. Anyone could come; roles traveled round the table, each line in order. Too shy to take part? Sit on the periphery and read along.

All of Shakespeare's plays. Aloud.

Back in grade 9, my first exposure to Shakespeare was with the wonderful Arlene, whom I've written about. I'm now checking to see if I just used 'whom' correctly. Damn. Anyway. At 12, I sat there totally enthralled as she brought it to life, demanding that we hear Shakespeare as it was intended: as a play, not a novel. She made us read aloud. She told us what all the dirty jokes meant. She filled in the background with stories of the time, letting us know who performed this and how.

She showed us pictures of the outdoor theatres, to get a feel for how close to the performers the audience would be. She told us how men played the parts of women, and if the cheap seats down front weren't happy, they're throw rotten tomatoes at the performers. She explained how royalty and muckity mucks sat higher, and Shakespeare had to consider both sensibilities: those who craved the dirty jokes, and those who considered themselves above it.

She brought in Roman Polanski's MacBeth - a beautiful, violent film I've watched over and over. She played records for the other plays, expounding enthusiastically at the front of the classroom, her tiny exuberant frame running back on forth on teetering heels to make sure we understood what was taking place.

I don't know about my classmates, but I was transfixed. I loved the words; I loved this woman who felt it was so important that I love these words.

Later on, at McMaster University, I was lucky enough to take a course on Shakespeare. My professor was also an actor in productions the school did. An unassuming man in most regards, the second class would start, he was transformed. I had a towering, full blown production for each class, as he assumed each role and trolled the aisles, consumed by the words of someone he obviously adored.

My sons have tripped along with their required Shakespeare readings, and each time I've found myself submerged once again in this tapestry. As Pam, Christer's girlfriend, struggled with Hamlet last year, I summoned up Arlene's teachings, and explained and compared and illustrated the sweeping characters and plot. Once again I heard Arlene's enthusiasm, and once again I was reminded how timeless it all is. Pammy looked at me and said, "you should teach this. I finally get it."

I can't teach it, but I still love it. I read this article and found myself giddy at the thought of finding like-minded people to recreate his words.

And you thought the geeks only took science.


Anonymous Pat Lake said...

Tell me how many modern authors will have theatres dedicated to their works, four hundred years after they are dead ......

"the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones..." you don't get THAT in some Oprah-flogged novel!

December 04, 2011 6:47 PM  
Anonymous buzzwhack said...

The man covered virtually every major and minor plot, theme, idea and breadth of human activity and did it better than he had the right to considering his background and climate of his time.
The only book I can think of that immediately comes to mind as being in its league is Piers the Plowman, a masterpiece in its own right.

December 05, 2011 1:26 AM  
Anonymous jmd said...

You know what I think would be fun? If a bunch of people sat around and read the scripts of the Monty Python movies. Much hilarity might ensue.

"Go boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person!"

December 05, 2011 9:44 AM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Okay, Jane, we'll alternate: First Saturday is Shakespeare, third is Python.

Bet we get the same crowd....

December 05, 2011 10:44 AM  
Anonymous jmd said...

Can we wear funny hats and codpieces, and drink grog out of big goblets?.

December 05, 2011 10:58 AM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

You may. And those costumes will work for all the sessions. How handy.

December 05, 2011 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Pat Lake said...

My daughter bought me a bottle of honey mead for my birthday .... haven't had an excuse to open it (and watch for reactions if anyone actually tries some)... :)

December 05, 2011 8:51 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

"O shame, where is thy blush?
Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax
And melt in her own fire."


"Your mother was a hamster, and your father smells of elderberry!"

I know where MY fan mail will go.

"I'm not dead yet."

My word? "legod" Maybe I'll just let Him decide.

December 06, 2011 8:26 AM  
Anonymous annie said...

Oh oh oh! We are knee deep in The Merchant of Venice. I read and provide analysis and Kayla spins it all into darling little comics that she can then use to study. Oh it is such fun and a tremendous opportunity to spend time with her. xoxo

December 07, 2011 8:29 AM  

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