If the world is a stage and we are all players,
Our rapport with the sport of life
Is enhanced with travel and exploration
Of history embodied in picturesque houses
Out of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty
With luxurious gardens that scare away crows
With hanging potatoes stuck with feathers—
Better than a scarecrow without a brain, huh?
“Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house,
Write loyal cantons of contemned love,
And sing them loud even in the dead of night.”
So says Olivia in her disguise as Cesario,
Words she delivers to the apple of her love’s eye,
Lamenting her own unrequited affections.
Willows, a symbol of grief and loss,
Gave retreats in cabins,
And in the backyard of Shakespeare’s wife
Is where it stands, where the woman so disparaged by scholars
As the shrew and seductress of a juvenile Will,
Though little is known about her life,
And speculators pounce like British tabloids.
Germaine Greer was civil enough to do her justice,
With research into her background
And a novel in her honor, entitled Shakespeare’s Wife.
There’s plenty written about the man himself—
Now what about his lady?
Who would King Arthur be without Guinevere,
Robin Hood without Maid Marian?
Let Anne Hathaway have her say with the marriage counselor—
Infidelity, irreconcilable differences, whatever it may be.
These days were have our big screens, our widescreens,
Our high-definition TV sets with TiVo,
In our living rooms for the world to see
And think highly of us.
In Shakespeare’s time, it was beds.
Sleeping on the floor was commonplace—
Beds were a luxury, the status symbol,
And not at all unusual to be placed in the kitchen,
For guests to marvel at like a museum piece,
Or a sport’s car invoking neighbors’ envy.
Makes you think, doesn’t it,
Of how far we’ve come,
And how much we take for granted.
Watching Shakespeare in a British theatre
Feels more authentic than in
Here is Shakespeare’s work in Shakespeare’s country,
Like the musical Matilda, playing in November,
Based on a book of the great Roald Dahl,
The British genius who defined my childhood—
Anyone want to stowaway to
Who would want King Lear as a leader,
A man who chooses allies and enemies poorly—
Malevolent daughters with venom veiled
By inflation of their lord’s ego
Over the honest voice of a daughter
“So young, my lord, and true,”
Whose word he takes for scorn,
For she claims he is mortal and not godly.
He bites the only hand that feeds him
In banishing her from his kingdom,
But he sees, with cavalry and elements against him,
“I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less,
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.”
Indeed he is less in his perfect mind
Than is the Fool, with his painted face
And court jester’s mannerisms,
Yet more truth in social commentary
Than in Lear’s Narcissus mirror—
If you think Ophelia plays the “Woe is me” card,
You should see this guy—
Banishing his kind daughter and having the gall to say
“I am a man more sinned against than sinning.”
Their reunion in her castle
Where a daughter takes task of a mother
To a fallen king, infantile in his senility,
Is nonetheless cause for rejoice—
Until Shakespeare decides the audience is too happy
With recent developments
And lets his characters begin their ride into the sunset
Only to step on a land mine on their way off.
Where thunder, rain and wind once sounded,
Silence follows Lear in entrance
With his daughter dead in his arms.
“Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all?”
Shakespeare knew how to lure his audience eager
And have them depart weeping,
And I shall go to bed in awe and in sadness,
Awe at the production, stunning performances,
Grief at the tragedy of it all.
Damn it, Shakespeare, were you a masochist?