Alan K. Farrar (omgwtfbbq!) makes me want to read Peter Brook right now. The topic, Forget Shakespeare, deals with advice on how to perform a Shakespearean role. In so doing, Brook expresses pretty clearly one of the central reasons why I do love this stuff so very very much:
“The actor’s task is not to think of words as part of a text, but of words as part of a person whom we believe actually minted them in the heat of the moment” (pg 43).
In other words, take out the middle man between you and this fictious character. Forget the playwright in the middle, forget that you are an actor performing a role created by Mr. Shakespeare. You can't say "I will play Scene 2 this way because I know that in Scene 5 I respond in this way...." because Hamlet himself would have had no idea what he was going to do in scene 5, nor that there even is such a thing as a scene break.
Shakespeare’s words, Brook reminds us, are ‘necessary expressions of the inner patterns of exceptional human creatures.’
I think that summarizes nicely how I feel about things like Shakespeare biography, Elizabethan history, the Authorship question and all that sort of thing. I care about the characters inside the plays, as if they are real people. Hamlet is not a construct of this many words in this sequence - Hamlet is a messed up college kid whose dad was murdered and whose mom did some....well, he's got issues with his mom. Hamlet, minus the sword fights and poisoning and such, could be any number of college kids in the world right now. Same goes for Romeo, Juliet, Lear, Cordelia..... When I experience Shakespeare, I don't see text, I see people. Exceptional people. Last month I wrote a post entitled But what if you would? in which I tried to get at a similar idea. Most of us in our lives will never experience the sort of exceptional life of a Hamlet or Romeo. That is part of the great gift of Shakespeare, both to the actor who is given the roadmap for how to experience, and also to the audience, that they might witness it.