“He was not of an age but for all time.” Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s fellow playwright and rival.
Shakespeare is a literary person’s Santa Claus. And an actor’s too. For an actor, it’s not like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney saying, “Let’s put on a show.” Well, it kinda is, but it is still Shakespeare. You say, “You do Shakespeare really well,” and the actor’s in hog heaven. Of course, there’s one of Ol’ Will’s plays on every actor’s bucket list.
Like Santa Claus, you don’t even have to say The Bard’s first name. By the way, Santa’s first name is Will. Just like Will was Shakespeare’s. Guess that is how we ended up with where there is a Will, there is a way.
Once you get hooked on Shakespeare, you’ve got Christmas 365 days a year. There’s so many presents under that Christmas tree. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Only the Bible competes. And Johann Sebastian Bach.
For instance, there’s the Sonnets. One hundred and fifty of them. Like the Psalms. Each of the Sonnets has something to say. It’s like sticking a shell against your ear. One day you hear a symphony. The next day it’s a sonata or a nocturne. You could read Sonnet 18 everyday for a year and you would get something different for each day. Now how many things in life can bring you that much pleasure?
As an actor, an actress or a scholar, you can build an entire career on one of The Bard’s plays. “King Lear” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “The Tempest” or “Hamlet”, “Othello” or “As You Like It”. An actor can play Romeo early in his career, then move on to Macbeth and Richard III and Henry V. This is how Olivier became Olivier. At the end of days, there’s King Lear. For a an actress, you’ve got Juliet, Desdemona, Ophelia, Gertrude, Cleopatra, Rosalind and Prospera.
Then there’s the villains. Shakespeare had some villains that would make the Wicked Witch of the West or Lex Luthor look like a Barbie Doll. I am speaking of Iago, Lady Macbeth and Richard III, and Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius. Now those were some real villains who put the capital e into Evil.
And nobody does it better when it comes to a lovable character. Falstaff is as unique as Don Quixote and a lot more fun.
Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?