In the bard’s backyard – hanging on his every word…

17 01 2012

Sunday 15th January

Thoughts for the Day:

‘Brevity is the soul of wit…’

Hamlet (Act 2, scene 2)

 

(RSC merchandise)

 

 

If, as Shakespeare’s Polonius says, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ I’d better keep it brief:

Today we were in the bard’s backyard.

Valeria had studied Shakespeare, in English, as part of her high school course in Italy.

She had played Ophelia – ‘Get thee to a nunnery’, Good-night, ladies; good-night, sweet ladies; good-night, good-night’– and all that – and yes she would like to visit the ‘Elizabethan theme park’ that is Stratford upon Avon.

Crossing the medieval Clopton Bridge, pausing, but briefly, at Cox’s yard for a caffeine injection – throwing back an espresso, Italian-style – we now had the Will power to move on apace, along the well-trod tourist track.

First, a quick spin around the Gower Memorial to the great poet and playwright, perched in his chair, placed on a pedestal, surrounded by life size statues of noteworthy dramatis personae, representing philosophy, history, tragedy and comedy:

         Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: ‘Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy…’

         Prince Hal: ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,’ and later as the fully fledged Henry V, – “Cry ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’”

         Lady Macbeth: ‘Out, damned spot! Out I say…’

         Sir John Falstaff: ‘The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav’d my life’

Next a ramble along the broad pedestrianised, distinctly un-Tudor like, thoroughfare that is Henley Street, to the playwrights birth place, cowering in the shadow of the carbuncular glass and concrete Shakespeare visitor’s centre, surrounded by ‘olde’ English tearooms and tourist tat.

Nearby stands the jester ‘Touchstone’ (from ‘As You Like It’), ironically portrayed by Shakespeare as a wise man with a dry cynical wit – ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but  the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ A character with whom I can readily empathise, and my favourite sculpture in Stratford.

Our final stop, inevitably, the RSC gift shop, its merchandise emblazoned with Shakespearian quotes for every conceivable occasion; tee shirts backing ‘Team Capulet’ and ‘Team Montague’, pink girlie items sporting the logo, ‘Though she be but little  she is fierce’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream), back to school, ‘2B or not 2B’, pencil tins and ,‘Out damn spot’, erasers, ‘Billy’s badges’ and  ‘buttons’ bearing such subtle insults as – ‘Thou art a boil’!

‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’ (Macbeth).

Nevertheless, nearly 400 years later, the power is still with Will – a maketing dream – and we continue to hang on his every word!                     

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