If music be the food of love — play on!
Last week I saw a wonderful production of Shakespeare’s 12th Night. It was done in authentic Shakespearian era style with men playing all the roles. The cast included Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance as part of the wonderful ensemble. When the Count begins the show with — “If music be the food of love, play on” — I was struck by the number of Shakespeare-isms that infuse our every day speech.
Sometimes I know I’m hearing Shakespeare in ordinary 21st century speech or text and sometimes it simply slips in under my radar. Othello’s jealousy is described as a green-eyed monster. It’s seems a bit clichéd, but that’s because it’s been used for centuries. “A plague o’ both your houses!” from Romeo and Juliet, has begun to feel like a political pundit’s catch phrase. It turns up so often in American politics that it feels American. We often talk about a “sea-change” in culture or technology and that handy phrase for describing a significant transformation is from The Tempest.
I didn’t realize that “A dish fit for the gods” was from Julius Caesar (largely because I hadn’t read it since high school) until I was contemplating the Ides of March for a story idea and stumbled on this gem, “Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully; Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods…”
Now, that is a chilling image.
Macbeth is so chock full of great lines that it’s easy to see it as an irresistible buffet of images and titles. Faulkner didn’t pull “The Sound and the Fury” out of a hat — he got it from one of the Bard’s juiciest passages.
“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Every phrase in that Macbeth quote is a great place to start — A Walking Shadow. A Tale Told by an Idiot, His Hour Upon the Stage, Heard No More, Out Brief Candle…. I love Shakespeare!