As anyone who reads this blog or knows me should realize, I’m a complete Shakespeare fanatic. I credit him with every one of Western Civilization’s great achievements including the cure for polio, and if anyone reading this dares to hint that he is overrated or overpraised, let them commit seppuku immediately. Shakespeare fucking owns. End of discussion.
That said, I don’t think most people realize just how modern much of his work is. Anyone who has seen the Ian McKellen version of Richard III, which reimagines the play as taking place in the alternate-universe fascist England of the 1930s can tell you that there are infinite ways to breathe life into the four century-old material. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where Shakespeare fans are starting to wonder if anyone stages the material in the time or place that Shakespeare intended anymore. As a professional actor/musician/singer/director friend of mine explained, Shakespeare plays are so widely performed and known that the only way to make money off of them is to find a way to stage them that hasn’t been done to death. I sympathize. The nice thing about the Bard, though, is that his work can be put on by just about anyone. You don’t need a budget or professional actors to find a unique way of staging the Shakesman. All you need is imagination.
Why am I talking about this? In my last post, I mentioned that I’m trying to write less for myself and more for my audience (which, from what I can tell, consists of a dozen or so Facebook friends and three people who stumbled upon my blog while looking for something else), so why am I talking about something that mostly just matters to me? Let’s begin by acknowledging that this isn’t really about Shakespeare. It’s about control. Shakespeare’s work has shown the longevity that it has because it is so universal. Whatever your area of interest is, it’s likely that you can find something in Shakespeare that appeals to you. My Shakespeare professor was an ardent feminist, so most of her readings had to do with the gender politics of his plays. I tend to beeline for political and religious interpretations. Some people prefer to focus on linguistics and the curious way that so much of his dialogue can have alternate meanings depending on whether it is spoken aloud or read. There are metafictional interpretations to much of it as well, one of the strongest examples being Prospero’s final speech in The Tempest, which is both a moving meditation on the actor’s dependence on his audience and an epitaph for Billy Shakes’ career as a whole. My professor covered that play last. Since she died of cancer a few months later, it made her lecture a sort of swan song of its own.
I lost my iPod about a week and a half ago. It’s annoying, especially because I cannot figure out how it happened. I packed up my things so that I could work in another part of my school building, moved there, and when I unpacked my things, the iPod was gone. I returned to the previous spot to see if it was still there, but it wasn’t. Sure, it could have been stolen, but I don’t think it was. I think the people who go to school in that particular building would return a lost item. Yet I’ve heard nothing from lost & found after filling out a report. Things like this don’t happen to me. I lived on my own for a year and never locked myself out of my apartment. I didn’t even stash a spare key in a place where I could get to it if something did happen. I’ve never locked my keys in my car. I set my alarm, but my biological clock is so finely tuned that I almost always wake up before it goes off. This isn’t supposed to happen. But I’m still feeling my way around. I was confident at first that I would find it again, but now I’m not sure. Where could it have gone? It fell through a hole in my mind. I don’t even want it back half as badly as I want to know how it slipped away.
Prospero lived on an island where he controlled everything. He was master of all that he saw, so no one could betray him. I don’t want to move to a remote island. But I need to be good enough at organizing and managing my life that an expensive device that I got barely two months ago doesn’t disappear without explanation. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
I’m slowly piecing my life together. Yesterday, a professor called me into her office to ask me what happened with a recent project. I told her that it was turned in late, but that I’m proud of my work nonetheless and confident that next time around, I will be more punctual. She threw up her hands, shook her head, and said, “Well, I just don’t know about that.” Excuse me? I really don’t know what else I can say. I believe in myself. I can’t help it if others don’t.
My mother seems to be coming around. So there’s that. Still a long way to go before I rule the world, though.