Friday, May 15, 2020

Loving Shakespeare: A Convergence Of Many Factors


To read, or not to read, that is the question: but, if you do read Shakespeare, read it as you like it

For the longest time during my schooldays, I hated reading Shakespeare, more because of the fact that I never understood and consequentially it just bored me. The world of thy, thou, art, hath, shalt and other other archaic usages made my head rivet, thanks to lack of comprehension. At this stage in Class VIII, we got one of the best English teachers I had in school and a compulsory, non-detailed lesson of The Merchant of Venice. And, that turned around the world of Shakespeare for me. I fell in love with The Merchant of Venice, with Portia (also as Balthazar), Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Shylock, and everyone!

I remember me slipping into a mull of thoughts when Shylock breaks out on his moving monologue.  
"I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction." 
I remember my excitement at Gratiano's sarcastic comeback at Shylock, giving the Jew a taste of his own medicine on calling Balthazar(Portia) as the most learned judge when she went against Antonio, every single time my English teacher read out the 'O learned judge! Mark, Jew: a learned judge!' with the utmost zest and sneer of Gratiano. What a pleasure it was to read Shakespeare, suddenly!

The same year, we also had Julius Caesar to be performed as a play for internals, and I remember the enthusiasm with which I took up the lead to read the original play and work on the script, and I also remember playing Brutus! Our teacher really liked the play, and we felt so proud!

I went on to read Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It after that- and I enjoyed every one of them! In Class IX, I took part in a stage play of The Taming of the Shrew for my school anniversary, and it was again a wonderful experience with the story and being a part of it!

That's when I realized I had to be taught to read Shakespeare, and that has to happen at the right age. Maybe a couple of years younger, I'd have refused to give it a try, and maybe a couple of years older- I'd have refused to change my view about Shakespeare. I'm sure that these non-detailed books planned for syllabus maybe with that optimum view- but I was extremely lucky to get a teacher who could make me fall in love with it!

This reminds me of the "right book, right time" theory by Sara Nelson in So Many Books, So Little Time.

If you are one of those who don't really think you can read and enjoy Shakespeare- try listening to someone who knows to read his work, and follow the text while it is being read out loud! It can really do wonders, like it did with me!

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