The stories we read, see and hear sometimes leave a lasting effect on our lives. Stories inspire us to be who we are. They shape our own journey and can take the mind anywhere. There are some stories that effect us so much, they even shape our future…
Shakespeare, the original story teller. The true architect of language and narrative. You’ll find his influence near enough everywhere when it comes to the written and spoken word; sometimes you won’t even know you are using a phrase that he originally influenced. His works these days have even extended to cinema and television.
Many of us came across the Bard’s work during our school years. Too many walk away from those lessons thinking his work is boring and almost inaudible to follow. That’s a tragedy in its own right and probably down to a lack of teaching execution. Although I don’t blame teachers not being an effective vessel to explain Shakespeare, like all art it’s an acquired taste and also subjective.
For me Hamlet is the true epitome of story telling. It has almost everything a good story should have. Love, life and death with near enough all the elements that make a good story just that. Betrayal, deception and triumph; enveloped by that word ‘tragedy’. They never taught me about Hamlet at school. I remember ‘Macbeth’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but the Prince of Denmark and his laments I didn’t find out until I was cast as him in the play.
When you take on a work for the stage, be that by any writer you take a part of them and perform it as your own. You also sometimes; not all the time, become engrossed into their story and by becoming a character you only truly appreciate the weight of a story and it’s true power.
Death is all around Hamlet, the character and the story. His ever so famous ‘to be or not to be’ monologue is about the contemplation of such and as the story unfolds death slowly reaches over near enough all involved. He urges love interest ‘Ophelia’ to get away which becomes an unintentional shun leading to the shuffling of her mortal coil. ‘Claudius’ plays the typical step father figure that is cliche even to this day – he did have a hand in killing his brother who happens to be Hamlet’s father the King; sound familiar yet Simba?
The only significant survivor by the close of play – spoiler alert; although you’ve had hundreds of years – is ‘Horatio’ who utters those ever so famous words but before then we see a deceptive plot to poison Hamlet which goes ‘badly’ for Shakespeare’s standards along with a memorable duel. As I said it has everything and as our language continually evolves further and further away from that used in this classic tale, it’s so important we remember and honour it.
For those looking to improve their craft on stage nothing will do it better than the words of William Shakespeare. From modulation and dictation all the way to understanding of how a basic story is put together and all the way to being able to learn lines – if you’ve learned and nailed Shakespeare on stage, everything and I say everything you do after will be noticeably easier. Great stories of tragedy or even triumph never fade and well I suppose the rest is silence….
Do you have a favourite Shakespeare work?