Last month, Lit Ladies (book club no.1) decided to take a trip into NYC to see Much Ado About Nothing, an off, off (take the A train downtown), off broadway play.
I am only slightly familiar with Shakespeare’s work, thanks to Mel Gibson’s movie, Hamlet, back when Mel Gibson was hot. And I recall, vaguely, reading King Lear in high school. That’s pretty much the extent of my Shakespeare knowledge.
Much Ado About Nothing was a comedy, I was told, which was perfect. I needed a good laugh.
For the purposes of keeping this reasonably short, I’ll bypass the pre-play festivities, which include the debacle of trying to get nine naive, suburban girls into the subway. A story for another day (and a funny one, too. I promise).
As we settled into the theatre, the lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and the actors walked onto the stage dressed in contemporary clothing. My earlier ambivalence about seeing the play diminished, and my hopes lifted.
Until one actor opened his mouth and spoke ye olde English.
During the initial dialogue, all nine of us glanced back and forth to each other, to see if anyone understood. Sure enough, no one did. When the rest of the audience laughed, we shrugged. How could we be so lost? How did everyone else understand what was going on?
I needed subtitles. Or an interpretor. Or a nap. (We had just enjoyed dinner down the street and of course, this book club doesn’t call themselves Lit Ladies because they like to eat).
I closed my eyes briefly, blaming the vodka, and not the fact that my brain hurt trying to understand what these people were saying. I was grateful to have paid only $22. for my ticket (Groupon). Small gifts.
We were well into the second half when I finally caught on to the story. It must be similar to watching an Opera sung in Italian; how eventually you get the gist of a story by facial expressions and reactions. From what I could surmise, MAAN was about the courtship of two couples, one of whom is tricked into confessing their love for each other. As I laughed with the rest of the audience, I felt really good to be involved in something that was written 500 years before I was born.
Overall, Lit Ladies agreed, though slow to start (for us), it was not bad.
I didn’t give William much thought after that night, until a few days later.
I was watching an old rerun of Mad About You and during a tender scene, Jamie happened to quote Juliet, from Romeo and Juliet. Maybe it was the way she said it, or the circumstance under which it was whispered (Paul was having an operation), but I understood, with such clarity, every word. It stayed with me for days.
It was about love. This was the quote:
“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Well, I started looking for other Shakespeare quotes and found this:
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt thou the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
When Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
(Love’s Labour’s Lost, 4.3)
There are so many stirring quotes written by this man (that I actually understand), but I won’t list them here. Suffice it to say, I spent an afternoon falling in love with his words. If you haven’t had the pleasure, take a gander at Romeo and Juliet. It’s a wonderfully romantic, lyrical experience.
Shakespeare may speak in circles, and I may not understand most of what he wrote, but the man knew love.