The One and Only Bard
I love reading and reciting Shakespeare. I do not respond to his wit and wisdom cerebrally or get caught up in his universality that repeatedly makes headlines; my response is emotional. His language can make me smile, laugh out loud, or become wittily insulting. No matter the occasion, his aphorisms adroitly cloak his philosophy, his idiosyncrasies and his genius. The musical quality of his read-alouds brings pure pleasure and belies the commonly held belief that he is difficult to understand. Shakespeare writes in prose, in unrhymed poetry and in iambic pentameter. Literary critics have conducted innumerable studies to gain a deeper understanding of his style and choice of words, and their interpretations cover miles of written pages. The deeper the dive the greater the complexity. Nevertheless, it is the ease and pithiness of his succinctly conveyed messages that delights me and many of his laconic axioms are every day usage.
I am exploring an extremely small section of his forage on life from memory. Shakespeare suggests that all the world is a stage and we merely players who live the seven stages of man within its entrances and exists. We play our parts starting in infancy to the finality when we are sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. Humans as portrayed in his plays are on a roller coaster ride of greed, power, love and lust. As sure as hell is empty and all the devils are here, so does he insist that in a quarrel there is no true valor. But in loving all, trusting a few and wronging none, we redeem ourselves. There are more things in heaven and hell than we can dream of. Juxtaposed thoughts tell us that the fault (dear Brutus) is not in our stars but in ourselves. Mortals are fools and reason keeps little company.
Some truths are self-evident and in being true to ourselves, we cannot be false to any man. There’s nothing that is infinitely good or bad – our thinking makes it so. We know what we are but know not what we may be. He cautions us to listen to many but speak to a few with brevity being the soul of wit. His jesters are his prophets and amongst everyday men, one may smile and smile and be a villain. As we struggle to do right, we are guided by our sacrosanct selves as conscience does make cowards of us all. Even as we try to reach new heights, the words fly up; thoughts remain below and words without thoughts never to heaven go. Shakespeare’s extensive use of metaphors, puns and imagery present life in its varied colors.
There are life lessons for everyone and chances are that if you have used simple phrases such as “its Greek to me” you have probably used his words yourself. I could cite innumerable examples but will say no more. In anticipation of Inktober, I sketched the bronze torso that is housed in the Shakespeare Club in Pasadena using the warm grey palette of Faber-Castell Pitt pens. Since travel seems like a far cry, the ink and watercolor sketch is in remembrance of my trip to the Shakespeare and Company store in Paris.