Thursday, March 6, 2008

William S. and Barbara G. by Kathryn Magendie

If I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me—William Shakespeare
I forgive you William Shakespeare, and I love you for it, too. Oh, but it wasn’t always so. There was a time when I just didn’t get you, dear William. I’d hear your name fall from reverent lips. I’d attempt to read your plays, and attempt is a generous word to use. I’d watch adaptations of your plays with their modern themes and shrug, change the channel. I’d ask, “What? What does it all mean?” But then, before my move to the mountains, I took a class at Louisiana State University, taught by the ever-wonderful Barbara Gray. I remember worrying in that first week of Shakeybaby that I’d never figure out what the Bard was trying to say. But, through Barbara Gray’s talents, and a whole lot of patience, she led her students through the dense forest of words and phrases, the very brilliance and wonder and unique—the unique that ironically so much cliché has been formed—that is our William Shakespeare.

So much became clear, yes; and yes, some things are still hard to follow unless I pick apart the play limb by limb, but Barbara Gray opened Shakespeare’s skin and let me have a peek inside at his pumping heart, his running blood through throbbing veins. I have a bust of Shakespeare (and of another idol: Beethoven) on my computer hutch, and my Shakespeare sports a big red lip-print upon his ever-exposed forehead. My kiss of thanks. I’d give the same forehead kiss to Barbara Gray for opening that big fat creaking door I’d pushed against for years trying to gain entrance into a Closed Club of Shakespeareanites.

There are days I wonder if he’s peeking over my shoulder when I accidentally make up a word and later think, “Wait! That’s not a real word, but I like it. I think I’ll keep it,” or when I flop out a phrase that I read and think, “I wrote that? Yes, I wrote that. Huhn. Wow.” Oh, William! I adore you, and you, too, Barbara Gray; and demurely I bow to you both in thanks for who you are and what you have contributed to my life, to my writing, to the very particles of air you breathed out and scattered upon the winds for future generations to breathe in.


Barbara Quinn said...

I had a love/hate relationship with ole Will. We studied the biggies in high school and I remember seeing Romeo and Juliet performed live at Stratford, not England, but Connecticut where they built a theater that catered to school groups. There was an adorable Tybalt. I loved the rhythm of the words, the passion, but the old English was opaque and it took time to appreciate and adjust to. We used to read the plays aloud at school. I remember being one of the three bubble, bubble, toil and trouble witches.
Fun post.

Angie Ledbetter said...

You make me want to study him more. And kudos to a teacher who knew how to "reach" instead of "preach." ;)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Barbara Gray was (is) wonderful. She also taught an english 1002 course - I think it was called 1002 anyway, my second college course ever at the ripe age of forty something...she is one of the ones, Robin Becker the other, who encouraged me to get back to my writing ...after a hiatus of 20+ years!

Nannette Croce said...

I enjoy seeing Shakespeare performed more than reading him, which I used to apologize for, but now I realize is how his work was meant to be appreciated. I do not generally care for the comedies. I love Macbeth and Julius Caesar, and of course, Hamlet and Sir Lawrence Olivier as King Lear. However, I always think of the joke a workshop leader told about taking a friend to see his first Shakespeare play. The friend didn't understand how Shakespeare had become so revered as his work contained so many cliches.

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