Shake 38

The Regulars

Words, words, words
Article by Alec Wild

Answers to last month’s Shakespeare puzzle (phrases are bracketed). Congratulations to Steve Knight, who identified more Shakespearean words (39) than any other reader. Well done, Steve!

Ah, Spring. That colorful and wonderful time of year when we all toddle about, rose-cheeked and happy, engaging in the unmitigated joy of warm weather, sunny skies, and outdoor Shakespeare festivals. Back in my [salad days], when I was [green in judgement] and tossed in a low-calorie vinaigrette of self-seriousness, I avoided these places like the [East Indies]. No inducement could tempt me to a [never-ending] evening sitting shoulder to shoulder in the grime with fellow playgoers (most of them in retirement), whilst mosquitoes attacked my skin and ants marauded my picnic basket. It all seemed a savage and useless employment, punctuated by actors spouting weird language only understood by the well-read, well-bred, or well-educated. I’d had it up to my eyeballs, and wasn’t afraid to shout it from the chimney-tops.

How times have changed. It wouldn’t be going too far to state that I am now a [full hearted] champion of Shakespeare festivals. It’s now considered a time-honored traditional exercise to go and sit on a [grass plot], uncork a bottle or two of Chardonnay, and glutton ourselves over a picnic dinner, all whilst the sublime language of early modern English reverbs through the air – bloodsucking mosquitoes notwithstanding. Now if you remain unswayed to this pleasure, I completely understand. Indeed, [who would fardels bear] to pack his belongings, leave his birthplace, and travel umpteen-and-seventy miles just to see a play? And yet, countless people do, each year, even at the risk of exposure, or being brutally fly-bitten.

Why? Perhaps it is the tranquil atmosphere of an early summer’s evening as it grows dark, and the stage is lit by a combination of incandescent lights and moonbeams. Or the amazement felt when one is truly swept up by the story of a great play – the audacity of a hunchbacked arch-villain, the madcap misquotes of a rascally zany, or the silliness of the dauntless lover as he plies his courtship with a fair-faced and reclusive young lady. Yes, Shakespeare Festivals are admirable institutions – and if you’re critical of them, I’d venture to say that you undervalue the power of a good story well told. Some say that Shakespeare still belongs only in the halls of academe, but I beg to differ. When performed dexterously, with any degree of expertness, these plays are eminently accessible, wonderfully eventful, and deeply satisfying.

So consider this an invitation. After a good day’s work, try going to your local Shakespeare Festival. Feeling frugal? There are plenty of free in-the-park productions all over the country. Go sit amongst the gentlefolk of your community and listen to the words. Bring an anchovy pizza – or even get someone to cater a dinner for you. Think of it as an investment. You may think it laughable, but these plays can soothe the ill-tempered, calm the fitful, and arouse even the most unmusical ear. They’ll put a little swagger in your step. And don’t be surprised if, right around the time one of the leading characters is reading a fateful love letter, you glance up into the night sky and see a shooting star. It’s been known to happen.

Happy hunting!

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