One Line

Here’s how I describe an outstanding new restaurant to people:  The food tastes so good that after that first bite, before you’ve even finished chewing it, while you can still taste it, and you turn to the person next to you, grab her by the shoulder, and wordlessly stare at her, wide-eyed, where if you had your mouth to speak the words would come out something like, “Oh….my…..god…..”  Words won’t do justice to the sensory experience, so the best you can hope for is something more … extrasensory? You know what I’m talking about? You ever get that rush with Shakespeare?  Sometimes I get blindsided by it. Yesterday, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we were discussing Macbeth.  The line came up, “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” and I said to my coworker, “You know, if you give it a second, that’s just a damned scary line.  That’s like something Lovecraftian.  Conjures up this mysterious image of a dark shape on the horizon, you don’t know what it is, but you know it’s coming, and it scares the living bejesus out of you.” Same type of thing.  Words just don’t quite cut it.  I know what I was trying to say, I even had the image in my head, I just couldn’t capture it.

5 thoughts on “One Line

  1. Know what you mean? It’s what Shakespeare is all about!

  2. Well, with all due respect, if it was quite that simple then I don’t think he’d have the same “Shakespeare is too hard to bother with” reputation he’s gone and earned for himself. And there’s about 400 years of academics cluttering up the simplicity of it with all their “Well you have to understand that while the line is “the air bites shrewdly”, it was actually pronounced closer to “shroudly”, which is a direct allusion to ghosts and death….” and so on that makes people so worried about “getting” the details that they mostly seem to miss the emotional roller coaster ride.

    If my food analogy in the post was accurate, I’m talking about the vast majority of people who come and go to any given restaurant and give them all the same sort of “I liked it, it was good” review, and always fall within that narrow band of opinion, never throwing themselves into either deep end. I want the food so good that I have to steady myself on the person next to me. Same with my Shakespeare. I’ve known people to walk out of a Shakespeare play with that same sort of “I liked it, it was good” response they would have given Kung Fu Panda, and it saddens me.

  3. There are two issues here, Duane, the written Shakespeare and Shakespeare as performed. Any Shakespeare geek knows what it is to get blindsided by Shakespeare’s brilliiance, like the line you quoted from Macbeth. That’s why we love Shakespeare. The only simple thing about it is that Shakespeare geeks appreciate Shakespeare, a lot of other people think he is too difficult to bother with, and a lot of academics write long, boring papers discussing all the wrong things about his works.
    Ron Rosenbaum discusses the problems with Shakespeare performance and it is rare that I feel satisfied with a staging. The exception that proves the rule: an electrifying production of Macbeth in London with Simon Beale. There are also some great moments of Shakespeare on film, like snippets of Othello in “Stage Beauty,” Romeo and Juliet in “Shakespeare in Love” and Hamlet in “Rosenkrantz and Guidenstern are Dead.” And I think Michael Keaton’s Dogberry in the film version of Much Ado was brilliant. But all in all, getting blindsided by Shakespeare in performance is unfortunately an uncommon event, in my experience.

  4. amusings_bnl says:

    perhaps it isn’t lovecraftian, but lovecraft is Shakespearean! And that’s why that line in and of itself is heard in so many places, from Ray Bradbury to Harry Potter… it resonates and gives chills. and is an “oh… my…. god!” moment.

    I blogged today that there are 2 tv commercials on right now, one about romeo & juliet using T mobile texting services. The other is for Playstation 3, and it features the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.

    Shakespeare isn’t dead. He’s getting lots of attention these days.

  5. I have similar moments every now and then. Quite a few while working on a production like I am now.

    The most common will be in discussing the text as a group, while dissecting the text. “He says so ____ to her which is so ____, and then she totally says ____ right back at him! Can you believe that? That’s so freakin clever!”

    Or wise, scary, funny, etc. These “AHA” moments are wonderful while watching the puzzle that is a Shakspearean play come together.


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