Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Don't forget to duck, Part II
It isn't surprising that William Shakespeare, having immersed himself in London's theatrical world and its need for lively yet insightful writing, should come to see parallels between life and the stage. The stage had become his life before he had reached the age of thirty. It had helped him put clothes on his back and bread on his table. He was not one to overlook such a sublime metaphor, or much else, for that matter.
Even the most casual perusal of his plays brings to light his fascination with the subject. Shakespeare returns to it again and again, in stage situations ranging from the tragic to the comic. Perhaps he was revealing a bit of defensiveness about his chosen profession: if his art didn't imitate life, then what was it good for? Would not theatrical writing then deserve the sneering disapprobation it received from so many of the literati of his age?
A few of Shakespeare's striking allusions to the stage and its probing of the human condition are included below, along with a photograph from a rehearsal at Agecroft Hall of Henry V, with its myriad sword-flashing battle scenes on "the vasty fields of France."
"I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been so struck to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions.
.......The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
Hamlet (II, ii)
"When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools.
King Lear (IV, v)
"Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian,
Tremble and start at wagging of a straw,
Speak, and look back, and pry on every side,
Intending deep suspicion; ghastly looks
Are at my service, like enforced smiles."
Richard III (III,v)
"Like a dull actor now
I have forgot my part, and I am out
Even to a full disgrace.
Coriolanus (V, iii)
"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."
As You Like It (II, vii)
"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury;
Macbeth (V, v)
"O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention:
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene."
Henry V (Prologue)