Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shakespeare - I

Some months ago, I heard Naseeruddin Shah on NDTV's Walk the Talk show [the link takes you to an autoplay video]. He mentioned Shylock's 'I am a Jew' as  a favourite. I immediately perked up because the speech [the link takes you to a YouTube video of the speech] also happens to be a favourite of mine:
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction. 
There was another Shylock speech early in the play, The Merchant of Venice, which is also a favourite:
Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say
'Shylock, we would have moneys:' you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit
What should I say to you? Should I not say
'Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys'?
While listening to the interview, I suddenly felt the urge to read a bit about Shakespeare which I had not done since my school days.(Should I call it a fitzcarraldo?) I know a couple of his plays reasonably well since I had studied them in school, I have some idea of some of of his famous plays and know nothing at all about many other plays so I can hardly be called a Bardolator. I thus read Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt and A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro.

I came across this site which had 37 plays by the Bard in 37 languages. I saw Twelfth Night in Hindi which was hilarious. I wanted to see some other plays in languages that I don't understand just to see how they are interpreted in various cultures. (Gosh, the things people do when they have time to kill! Some burst bubbles. These are some of the ways in which nerds kill time.) But most of the plays were no longer online when I checked next. I didn't know that they were available only for a limited time.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that I will be giving you some Shakespeare dope for a while. If you feel that this is a good time for you to take a well earned break, I won't blame you for it.

PS: There is some controversy about who exactly Shakespeare was. This youtube video shows Keir Cutler’s Adaptation of Mark Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead? One wag said that the plays of Shakespeare were written by another person named Shakespeare.

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