Shakespeare and me

April 23 will mark William Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary. April is also the month he was born in, though the date is not known. So while I was reading the coverage, the analysis and articles on The Bard in today’s papers (this being a weekend, they can elaborately do so in the special weekend editions), I couldn’t help but think that most of my coolest conversation with friends – that sort-of fortified my relationship with them – has been about Shakespeare, even if regrettably I haven’t read much of him.

I picked up Othello recently after some stimulating conversation with a friend who fluently used the Shakespearean language, probably because this friend was helping stage the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in a school. But whatever the reason be for my friends love for Shakespeare, it put me back to reading. Blame it on Vishal Bhardwaj, all I could really think of while reading Othello was Langda Tyagi and Omkara! I seriously think films are a great way of bringing Shakespeare to many of us. So I shouldn’t be judging myself for it I guess.

Anyway, a few pages through it and I tried to fake a high English literature quotient with another of my good friend (a former English Literature student) by trying to initiate a discussion on the play and particularly this line “’Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners,” and mentioned how it was a great message said simply, “… that we are thus or thus,”. What I was trying to imply was that I understood the profundity of the sentence. “We are thoos and thoos too, suttu,” pat came the reply, though I am pretty sure she didn’t mean it as an offence to Shakespeare but only wanted to make a light conversation. I had only been having heavy discussions with her for the past few days. And so we switched to joking about thoosing good food and turning the way I am now.

Shakespeare gave my brother, a year younger to me, recognition as well as first prize in grade 10, when he delivered Julius Caesar’s very famous “Friends Romans and Countrymen.. “ speech. In college, I was introduced to the world of plays by a dear friend (whose first love is theatre, from what I understand) who gave me a fairly good insight on Shakespeare’s contribution to concept of stage/settings/locations and basically theatrical production work.

A little more than three years back, when I was an expecting mother, one fine evening I was engrossed in a conversation with 19-year old cousin of mine about Shakespeare, why he is so popular, who were his contemporaries, why he used the language he used etc. It was mostly her speaking and me listening like you listen to an enchanting story- pretty much what relaxes you when you are expecting. And hey, good for the good child inside too who was listening to us. But no, my daughter is not a Shakespeare fan yet.

I am not sure if I should be putting this up on my blog because I don’t think I can write with authority on William Shakespeare. Hopefully after a few months, or years from now, when I can read him without referring to modern English translations of his works, I will make that attempt. For now my comments on his works, the dark sides of human emotions he explored etc will be shallow, so I shall spare the readers the horror of reading the same. What I can say with authority is that for me, reading and discussing Shakespeare has opened many doors  – of cool conversations, of entertainment, of friendships, of understanding plays, understanding that English as a language has had many forms, and that plays and poetries together can create wonderful imaginations. So yeah, to Shakespeare!