HollowCrownFans encouraged us to share a memory our experience with Shakespeare on this celebration of his 450 year. I readily recall my first encounter with a play – it was Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I was on an eighth grade excursion to see it in a local movie theater (yes, I’m old but not quite so old to see it during the original run). I was mesmerized.
It wasn’t just the story of star-crossed lovers. It was the feisty Mercutio and his tragic death. (I loved Michael York in that role.)
It was the kind-hearted but bumbling friar.
It was the nurse and her “sails”
It was the Montagues and Capulets with their fiery tempers and lasting feud. It was a noble prince who had enough and cries out:
Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague! See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love. And I for winking at your discords too. Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.
Most of all, though, it was the words, the lovely, lyrical phrases. It was, even then, recognizing that I was experiencing our rich mother tongue sung out at her best.
Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life; Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents’ strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love, And the continuance of their parents’ rage, Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
As our friend, John Keating from Dead Poet’s Society reminds us:
Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women, so avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.
Shakespeare was not lazy. He doesn’t have Romeo say “Wow, she’s one seriously hot looking chick.” Rather Romeo calls out:
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she: Be not her maid, since she is envious; Her vestal livery is but sick and green And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. It is my lady, O, it is my love!
So let us celebrate our Bard, our keeper of the mother tongue, our weaver of words and in so remembering, let us bring up, at least a bit, our own use of our tongues.