Monday, April 25, 2011

Quote .... Unquote

To honour (?) the birth of William Shakespeare (April 23 is the date set by tradition) my friend Jenn posted a YouTube clip by Rowan Atkinson on Facebook .  Now I am probably in the minority amongst my friends in not fully appreciating the talent that is Atkinson.  I don't mind him in small doses but after a while find him irritating beyond all belief and playing mostly on one abrasive note.  In the Black Adder series he did what any sensible comedian who had pretty much one tune to his fiddle does - surrounded himself with actors who had a few more strings to their bows:  Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Tim McInnerny, Patsy Byrne, Hugh Laurie (I fell in love with Hugh Laurie when he appeared as the Prince Regent in his bath) and the brilliant Tony Robinson as his faithful dog's body Boldrick.  All exceptional performers - more actors of comedy than comedians.  Yes I know the fiddle, tune, bows thing was a stretch but I've been away from writing for the past while so give me a chance!

You will notice that I have not posted the YouTube clip, even if it does feature Colin Firth; a pox on Mr Atkinson I say, but you can find it here.  The premise is that Shakespeare is responsible for all the deadly dull days we spent in school listening to his work being murder by droning pedants who strove to enlighten us whither we wanted to be or not.  Now I don't know about anyone else but I had a wonderful English teacher during my high school years.  Mary Firth was one of those educators who knew that you had to capture the imaginations of a student to make plays, poetry, literature and language a living thing.  Certainly in my case she succeeded.

Though I admit that I loved Shakespeare long before my high school years and the influence of Miss Firth. My father took me to my first live performances - The Tempest followed by The Taming of the Shrew the next week - back in 1957 or 1958. And I saw much of what was performed at our Stratford from 1959 onward - a young Christopher Plummer as Benedict that year!  Lately I've attended performances mostly in Italian - there is after all a school of thought that says Will was actually Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza from Sicily. It should be noted that there are more performances of plays by Shakespeare/Crollalanza or what you Will than any other playwright during the theatre season here in Italy.  Whereas, I might also mention, very few people here know who the hell Rowan Atkinson is.

All of this by way of introducing a quote I came upon from Bernard Levin the witty, wise and highly quotable British journalist/writer/broadcaster.

"If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare."
Sorry Jenn, and I guess Mr Atkinson, but  I think that's a more suitable way of celebrating William Shakespeare.

25 aprile - San Marco Evangelista
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Debra She Who Seeks said...

I must confess that I watched the YouTube clip, but only for Colin Firth!


I'm with Debra

Jacques said...

Are you kidding? Just about everyone in Italy knows who Mr. Atkinson is, even my mother-in-law!
The problem with name recognition for him in Italy is everyone thinks the name of the actor is Mr. Bean!