“All the World’s a stage, all the men, and women merely players…” As You Like It Act II Scene 7– William Shakespeare.
I remember having to memorize that entire passage for Mr. Keane’s O.A.C (Grade 13) English class. There might have been a recitation involved.
I remember studying his plays through high school (what English speaking kid didn’t?). Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello. We learned themes of tragedy, love, friendship and greed. The lengths star-crossed lovers would go to in order to be together or the machinations a wife would get up to in or advance her husbnd. As I felt at a certain point we’d analyzed them to death I even rolled my eyes wondering “why can’t we just let a good story be a story?”
But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized what real works of art his plays are. The rhythm (iambic pentameter) of the passages force them to stick in your mind. And the way he uses word to paint a picture: “In fair Verona where we lay our scene.” Shakespeare’s use of foreshadowing : “Double bubble toil and trouble,” from the witches gathered around the cauldron to start Macbeth. For the rest of the play; if you saw those witches, you knew something bad was about to happen.
His plays were meant for the stage. The first play I saw was Hamlet at the Stratford Festival. Paul Gross played the title role. Although we were seated high up, I still remember the “Alas poor Yorick..” passage. And of course the “To Be or not to be that is the question….” Probably one of the most famous monologues in the English language.
400 years after his death his stories still affect us. They demonstrate the beauty of the English language, and the power of a play. Thank you Shakespeare.