028:336 WilliamS

Things are better in threes.

I have no idea where this concept comes from, but I like it.

I think it’s important for a person to have, ready at their disposal, a list of their three favorite items in a variety of categories. That way, with this compiled collection, a person will never be at a loss in a social situation when the question of “What is you favorite [insert category here]?” arises.

To offer a sample, here are a trio of my favorites…

BOOKS: The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), On A Pale Horse (Piers Anthony), Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)

PLAYS: Hamlet (William Shakespeare), The Shadow Box (Michael Cristofer), Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett)

COMIC STRIPS: Bloom County (Berkeley Breathed), Calvin and Hobbes (Bill Watterson), The Far Side (Gary Larson)

There are more categories (and you’ll read of them later), but today’s post is to introduce you to my Three Muses. These are three creative souls whose work I greatly admire.

For today, let me introduce you to the first member of this troika and how we met.

This is my story.

I was first became acquainted to the genius of English playwright William Shakespeare in sixth grade. In my last year of elementary school, our teacher, Mrs. Roberts, told our class that we would perform an abridged version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Every student was expected to audition for a role and those students who were not selected to tread the boards would be part of the stage crew.

I auditioned for the role of Laertes. I didn’t think I would be able to memorize all of the lines for the titular character and the number of utterance from Laertes seemed more manageable. Plus, I would be involved in a real sword fight, which happens at the climax of the play.

As for my audition, I can’t recall how I did but it must not have gone well because I was assigned to be the lighting technician for the production. I wish I could tell you that I had a state-of-the-art light board with all sorts of knobs, dials, and faders, but in reality all I had at my disposal were the three light switches that controlled the illumination of the stage of our school’s multi-purpose room where our play would take place.

It was while watching the actors rehearse their lines over and over again that I became enamored with the Bard and his writing. In this one play, I saw a character struggle with a persistent need for revenge balanced with the morality of the deed. I saw a character struggle with a love not returned. I saw a pair of characters struggle with a conflict between what their official orders were and a concern for their friend. I saw a character struggle with the competing loves of a lost husband, a new husband, and her son. I saw a character struggle with his twin desires of power and faith.

The sixth grade version of me was astonished that one play could contain so much conflict and emotion.

Plus, there was a sword fight, a ghost, a visit to a graveyard, multiple stabbings, and one poisoning so that was cool to the sixth grade version of me also.

From that starting point on an elementary school multi-purpose room stage, I would read more and learn more about the works of Shakespeare. I would learn of the simplicity of Cordelia’s love in King Lear. I would learn of the dangers of desire in Macbeth. I would learn of the puckishness (pun intended) of romance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I would learn of the treachery of jealousy can induce in Othello. I would learn of the many facets of love from his sonnets. I would learn that the quality of mercy can indeed be strained in The Merchant of Venice.

And I am still learning to this day.

The words, plays, and sonnets of Shakespeare inspire me because they show me that is possible to use the English language to convey the utterly complex emotions we feel as humans. When I attempt to write, I often feel like the words I use are wholly inadequate to the spirit I want to convey. When that mood strikes, I am reminded of this quote from Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, which goes…

…human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars.

Most of the time, I can make the bear dance.

William Shakespeare, as my First Muse, shows me it is possible to make the heavens weep.

That’s my story.

P.S. If you would like to know how the sixth grade version of me learned first-hand about the “green ey’d monster” of jealousy …well, that’s a story for another day.

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