no summer since has quite matched up to that first one, though every once in a while I get it in my head to try beating its record. in 2011 I managed six or seven in a few months, but after that my summers have pretty much starved for Shakespeare. Lubbock, Texas, doesn't have lovely enough parks for any Shakespeare, or something. or maybe I wasn't paying attention in 2012.
here in 2014, four years and five states away from that very first string of playgoing, we have begun the season of Shakespeare well enough. As You Like It in the park the other week, and just a few days ago Henry V in Chicago with my new friend Liz.
the Chicago Shakespeare Company has a montage of the performance:
Suppose that you have seenI loved that. when they describe "the threaden sails, / Borne with the invisible and creeping wind," and then ask us to "stand upon the rivage and behold / A city on the inconstant billows dancing"--that's all the nudging my brain needs to wander off along a wide, sweeping, aerial view of some epic, imposing navy, its ships laden with so-called divine imperatives from the King.
The well-appointed king at [Hampton] pier
Embark his royalty, and his brave fleet
With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning.
Play with your fancies; and in them behold
Upon the hempen tackle ship-boys climbing;
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give
To sounds confus'd; behold the threaden sails,
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow'd sea,
Breasting the lofty surge. O, do but think
You stand upon the rivage and behold
A city on the inconstant billows dancing;
For so appears this fleet majestical,
Holding due course to Harfleur.
act three, scene four was 99% in French, which was hilarious.
act four, scene one opens up all sorts of questions on the subject of those so-called divine imperatives, and how the costs and blame for the resulting war might fall when it ends. can each soldier fight with a clean conscience, knowing it is his king who'll be responsible if this war turns out to be unjust? does standing staunchly inside the lines of loyalty somehow absolve a man of whatever blood accrues on his own hands? for every soul that falls, will kings and generals be forced to make account at judgement day? King Henry, in disguise at this point, says no, since anyone could find some neat chain of excuses for their actions or ends if they tried hard enough.
"... you may call the business of the master the author ofthe questions aren't really answered, but Harry does win France in the end, so we assume his cause was favored by heaven and all his soldiers honored for their parts in it, despite their spots.
the servant's damnation. But this is not so. The King is not
bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father
of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not
their death, when they purpose their services. Besides, there is
no king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to the
arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers."
I also noticed a theme of appearances vs. realities, surfaces against cores. (this might subtly show up on all Shakespeare's work--"all the world's a stage," etc.) what makes a true soldier when so many can play the outward part without actually risking their lives? do you need a truly fearsome army--do you need to fight at all--when lengthy, detailed lists of threats, thrown with wrath and spittle in your enemy's face, might subdue them just as successfully?
and speaking of love, is it enough to announce your desire and admiration? does giving your self to another aloud really mean you'll both be one? can love be made visible in these words, or even in actions? and if to love becomes politically expedient, does it still count as love?
does it matter, if or if not? some of Henry's last lines remind us that the victors get to make the rules (both written and unwritten rules):
"O Kate, nice customs curtsy to great kings. Dear Kate, you and Iso fashions and loyalties and rights and wrongs all change as power shifts from hand to hand, crown to crown, voice to voice. what love and truth and courage look like--what love and truth and courage are--might change, too, if we find the liberty of using a different frame.
cannot be confined within the weak list of a country's fashion.
We are the makers of manners, Kate; and the liberty that follows
our places stops the mouth of all find-faults..."