William Shakespeare is one of those writers.
|May I peer into your soul?|
This is not a post about the Bard, well; it is not a post about him in the sense of an essay or scholarly text. If that were the case the result would be a faux-scholarly treatise for I still am a novice when it comes to Shakespeare.
This column tonight is more about a fascinating new project The Guardian just put together. To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death some of the more outstanding and versatile British actors were filmed performing speeches from some of his more famous plays to the camera. The outcome is mesmerising for many reasons. One was the delivery. Each actor/actress had a unique approach to Shakespeare but there was a common thread running through their performances. A beautiful common denominator that united them all. Two were the expressions. They ran the whole gamut of facial phraseology, a stunning display of rainbow-like human emotions. I switched the volume off at some point and just watched their eyes, mouths, noses, hands silently (the only sound was the constant purring of our washing machine in the background). They said as much as the words they uttered. Third were the props they used or lack of them thereof. Eileen Atkins’ glass of wine at the end of her scene is as powerful as Adrian Lester’s prop-less one-second pause after “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing end them.”
To watch these first six films (I believe The Guardian has commissioned more) is to be exposed to Shakespeare’s intricate nuance. The beauty of his plays was that they were rarely black-and-white. Lester’s Hamlet (below) is a good example. I love the way he plays this renowned soliloquy. He is knackered. Hamlet is beyond exhaustion. His father has been murdered by his uncle with whom his own mother is consorting. That is enough to send anyone over the edge. “To die- to sleep- /No more; and by a sleep to say we end/The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to.” How many of us have not felt like that, at the end of our tether? Life pulling us in different directions?
I wish I had done Shakespeare properly in uni. I wish I had taught Hamlet properly, too, when I had the opportunity. The Bard not only wrote for an audience, but for the mind. The evidence is in the amount of people who read his plays without necessarily looking to attend a stage production. We all carry an internal Will. Do yourselves a favour, click on the link (in red, above) and enjoy once more this epoch-making writer.
Next Post: “London, my London”, to be published on Wednesday 10th February at 6pm (GMT)