When I was a little girl, my sister and I used to build forts in our basement. Blankets and books became our bricks and mortar. My parents kept many books on the shelves, the topics as numerous as the books.
Even in my illiterate days, these books captivated me. I could barely pick up the book with the burgundy and tapestry cover. It’s cryptic cover enchanted me. Awestruck, I waited for the day when I would be big enough to open the book and flip through the flimsy pages.
Time passed. I grew older. I recognized what the letters said. “The Riverside Shakespeare”–one of my mom’s college textbooks. I could hold the book now, but still didn’t dare open it. Shakespeare was a name to be revered.
In fifth grade, my family visited England. Two days after my eleventh birthday we left the States and flew to London. One side trip was to Stratford-Upon-Avon, where we visited Shakespeare’s house. Well, we got there a half hour prior to closing, and rushed through the place before stopping at the gift shop. There, I got my first real taste of his words. My family bought an illustrated collection of his twelve best-known works, with summaries, character descriptions and excerpts from the plays. For years, I poured over this text, learning the characters and stories of Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar.
My first taste of the Bard’s words as they rolled over my tongue was a little over a year later. We read a scene from Julius Caesar in my history class while studying Rome. My teacher assigned me to read the role of Brutus. I stayed up late the night before the scene “performance” going over my lines, testing them for the right sounds. There is magic in these words.
Shakespeare performed became a reality for me a year later, when I saw Romeo & Juliet performed. Though I now don’t care for the play much beyond Act III (Mercutio and Tybalt are my favorite characters), the production was outstanding. I loved every minute, and my introduction opened up worlds. Alas, the following week I sat through an awful production of Two Gentlemen of Verona, but it was the atrocious acting that scarred me, not the words.
It wasn’t until high school that I realized how much I worshipped the man’s words. While reading Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech from Romeo & Juliet out loud, I fell in love with the words. I continued to read his plays on my own, listening to actors play the roles.
The summer before my senior year, I participated in an acting camp based solely on Shakespeare. We performed snippets from Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth. I played Tybalt (we only had two guys in our cast). Though I didn’t have much to say, I had so much fun! I learned stage fighting and had a spectacular death.
My love for Shakespeare grows every year, with every play I read. Next up is Othello, I think.