So I’m home today for Presidents’ Day, catching up on Shakespeare Uncovered, and from the other room I hear this line (the subject line, that is) come out of my television…
…and I’m *there*. A storm. A ship going down. A sailor shouting orders to his shipmates, urging them to put their backs into it to keep them all alive.
I’m reminded of this quote by Peter Brook: “Each line in Shakespeare is an atom. The energy that can be released is infinite—if we can split it open.”
My question is this, though. Is it all in our heads? How much of that energy is in our own minds and interpretation of what we’re hearing?
Think of it like this. Imagine someone has never read The Tempest. The first thing we ask ourselves is, “Why am I hanging out with this person?” but we can get past that, because he stands his round at the bar. It’s come up in conversation after talking about the Olympics closing ceremony and your friend has asked you to explain the story. So you start here. You quote this line, and you try to explain how those words in that order paint the picture that you felt above.
Can you do it? This line isn’t particularly famous. Brook didn’t say “Certain lines in Shakespeare,” he said “Each line.” I get it (I think). I feel it. I’m not kidding with the above description, it crashed over me like a tidal wave. One line. It was awesome. And I found myself wondering if it was something in the line itself (and, of course, the delivery), or if it was really little more than conjuring up a memory of what I’ve seen in the past, something that I would be hard-pressed to ever explain to another person who hadn’t also seen it.
(* PS – Since it’s come up, the subject line spelling comes from First Folio. Eagle-eyed readers will spot that the URL is different from the subject, because I did alter it when I found a typo.)