Monday, 25 April 2016

We In It Shall Be Remember’d

On “Henry V” and a Shakespearean Mother

As I wrote on Saturday, I asked a few people to contribute pieces to this blog on their own experiences with Shakespeare, for a week of commemorating his life and work, beginning on the 400th anniversary of his death. This short work was sent to me by a friend of mine.

I would not call myself an expert on Shakespeare’s works. In fact, my knowledge is limited to the very basic grounds that we covered in high school. I was first introduced to him when I was thirteen and watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. To be honest, the only things that stuck out for me were a young Leonardo DiCaprio’s incredibly good looks and a weird, irrational, and totally unrealistic love story. As I got to high school, we covered the brief history of Shakespeare, “analysed” a few of his sonnets, and read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet and Othello – the only one of the lot that was mildly entertaining for a 16-year-old who found English class exhausting. An appreciation did, however, start to build when we did Shakespeare In Love as a film study. I was intrigued by Shakespeare’s “perceived” way of life and his influences. I started to become interested – I wanted to know more. I wanted to know which plays were represented and how they influenced the film.

We then, for our matric set work, studied Henry V. I went to a convent where most girls around me detested it. I loved it. It grew to become my favourite Shakespeare and the first of his that I was able to relate to. The lessons of leadership and how to deal with people were very pertinent to me at that particular point of my life. I guess that Is the beauty of Shakespeare. He was, and still is, able to strike a chord with everybody in some way – each person must relate to at least one of his works.

My best experience with Shakespeare, however, has everything to do with my mother. My mom was an author and editor and an all-round literature nut. I’m the complete opposite. Sport, to me, is what literature was to my mom and Maths was my favourite subject. I struggled with English class in school but I had a burning desire to do well. I spent hours, late nights, and early mornings, sitting with my mom, going through and analysing Shakespeare’s work and I would sit there marvelling at how intelligent, creative, and downright exceptional she was. She saw things in Shakespeare’s work that I, and probably most people, would miss by a mile. My mom has since passed on but that is a memory that I can hold onto forever and it is a gorgeous one that brings the biggest smile to my face. That memory is by far Shakespeare’s greatest gift to me.

Nine years since my introduction to Shakespeare and 400 years since his death, I’d like to think of myself as a little less of a philistine than I was in my high school years. I’m a big appreciator of a good film, song or book and Shakespeare’s influence is evident in almost all of it.


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