In 1999, I visited London and made a point of going to the Globe Theater, then open just two years. For those not familiar with it, it’s Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre rebuilt in Riverside London, near the original. It’s a wonderful, open air theater and you can sit in gallery or stand with the Groundlings. I and my friends stood with the rest of the groundlings to watch A Comedy of Errors that year and had a great time.
Now, those who know me well, know I have an abiding love of Shakespeare’s plays. I re-read them, I quote them, I think about them, they influence my literary sensibilities. I’ve watched the movies made from them or adapted from them.
What I think peculiar about them, from a personal standpoint, is that, given a choice between seeing one of his comedies acted out or one of tragedies, I prefer the comedies. I don’t know what it is, but I think Shakespeare recognized the difficulties of playing out a tragedy or the grand dramas of his histories. After all, as the chorus says in Henry V:
But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?Prologue: Henry V
It is truly difficult to capture the writing on the stage of the tragedies, though I’ve seen some excellent productions of Macbeth and Hamlet, still, the comedies seem more suited to the stage, at least for me, largely because there is interaction with the audience.
If you’ve experienced the comedies of Shakespeare live, then you know, there are always a few actors ready to interact with the groundlings or other audience members during the play. I feel, I think, that the comedies are more accessible and seem more like you are a part of them when you’re in the theater. I feel like I was just sitting there in a bar with Bottom and listening to him planning to put on a play for the king and then I can troop out there into to forest with him to help organize and get ready for it, while also having a good time.
It’s like you’re in on the joke in the comedies and sometimes you get the joke played on you, but you know it’s all in good fun and of course, you often get a good love story along the way.
My wife, who isn’t that fond of Shakespeare, did make a collage of for our wedding, that included photos and clippings and sayings that meant something to both of us and she quoted Much Ado About Nothing, at least the first part of this exchange between Benedict and Beatrice. But I love this exchange because it is funny and it represents two people of admirable wit who in the end will ultimately surrender to each other and be conquered by each other.
Benedict: I do love nothing in the world so well as you.
Is not that strange?
Beatrice: As strange as the thing I know not.
It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you:
but believe me not; and yet I lie not:
I confess nothing, nor deny nothing…
Benedict: By my sword, Beatrice, though loves me.
Beatrice: Do not swear, and eat it.
Bededict: I will swear by it that you love me;
And I will make him eat it that says
I love not you.
Beatrice: Will you not eat your word?
Benedict: With no sauce that can be devised to it.
I protest I love thee.
Beatrice: Why, then, God forgive me!
Benedict: What offense, sweet Beatrice?
Beatrice: You have stayed me in a happy hour:
I was about to protest I loved you.
Benedict: And do it with all thy heart.
Beatrice: I love you with so much of my heart
That none is left to protest.
I guess, the comedies seem more intimate and thus, more appropriate to the stage, while the tragedies and history seem so much bigger in scope and thus need a larger platform with wider boundaries, such as is in a reader’s mind.
Hey, by the way, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is slated to go on this year and tickets are expected to go on sale in May.
Oh, shoot, almost forgot. I’m supposed to add an “ask” or call to action to my posts. So how about it, comedy or tragedy? Which do you prefer in person? If that’s not your cup of tea of a question, then what’s your favorite Shakespeare play to see live? Or, if you haven’t seen any Shakespeare, is there a reason you haven’t?
Go ahead and comment below, but only if you want. But it would be cool if you did.