In Theatre on April 24, 2010 by Miche

Like most people, I was introduced to Shakespeare at school. So I hated him. It is a terrible disservice to any writer to put them on a syllabus.*

(*Fuck off, pedant. I used singular “them” because the default “him” is sexist and “him or her” is rhythmically wrong.)

I was in my late teens by the time I came to see the sainted Wm as a confrere – a proper living writer, rather than a bust on a shelf. In a fit of self-improvement I bought three Everyman volumes of his works from a second-hand bookshop, and I read a play every Sunday for half a year. Even so, it was only when I had the chance to act in one of his plays (Romeo and Juliet, Ulster Youth Theatre) that I began to appreciate his craftmanship. The following year I played Prospero in The Tempest – a part I’d dearly love to revisit – and had a crash course in literary spelunking: I was still discovering depths and nuances in the role two years after the show closed.

I haven’t done as many Shakespeare plays as I’d like. I had a great time doing Comedy of Errors at the Abbey: there’s a special thrill that comes from a warm wave of laughter, and I felt priveleged to be the deliverer of gags written by a man nearly 500 years dead. I was an indifferent Lorenzo in an indifferent production of The Merchant of Venice. I disappointed some by playing Ross, in Macbeth, the way Shakespeare wrote the part. Before I die I want to play Malvolio, Richard II and Richard III. And another go at Prospero, please.

PS: There are twats who insist that Shakespeare can’t have written Shakespeare’s work because he was a yokel with no formal education. They construct elaborate scenarios involving the Earl of Oxford, or the faking-dead Kit Marlowe, or some such nonsense. The proper response to such people is pointing and laughing.

PPS: If you don’t think Shakespeare was a great writer, have a look at this:

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.


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