My first encounter with Shakespeare was when I was a girl whose juncture of age was no more than that of which a child would have just evolved from the phase of skimming through picture books for the basic means of trifle education and entertainment. It was my father who had introduced him to me; he had bought me a cheap version of an abridged copy of THE TEMPEST. To say frankly, for a little girl of that age who only had awareness and familiarity of the standard Indian names and vistas that I had been so used to, I took to reading the book which was filled with rather strange and vivid pictures of its characters with relish as I honestly found them and their names quite funny. I still couldn’t put a finger on what its plot was even after reading—I should rather say ‘skimming’ as that is what I used to do back then—it a fair few times. But maybe after a year or so after that, I did fully grasp the contents of the plot and used to cogitate upon every scene in it that I found to be quite intriguing.
Time flew by, I grew up and there was not once when I even threw a second glance at the book except for those times when I would dust off my bookshelves to restyle them, stacking all the novels I had acquired by then in order, by size and personal preference just to please my parents, to show them that I could at least take good care of those books which they had bought for me upon my vehement outbursts for more books. But all that time, I was constantly mindful of the fact that Shakespeare was very famous and that he was associated with everything in that which literature partook. I had known that he was from a medieval period of time—though not a very early time—as I had read the infinitesimal amount of information that had been presented for his profile in the Preface part in the book my father had bought me.
By the time I was in high school, people around me were convinced that I had developed this ‘queer-according-to-them’ penchant for poring over thick volumes of novels or books whenever I could get my hands on one. That is something I doesn’t quite understand—just because I tend to appreciate the flavour of those novels which people don’t, that doesn’t give them any damn right to either comment about or mock me for it, people should just shut up and mind their damn businesses which they make a wreck of, instead of poking their noses and almost everything else into what insightful venture I try to undertake. If not being encouraging, they should at least stop with their trivial dictum.
So it didn’t really surprise my classmates when I used to always read an old version of THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE which I happened to chance upon in the non-popular, crumbling corner of the poor excuse of a library in my old school. By the looks of it, I could easily gather that not many people had even strayed by the book—Indian kids just love to scratch away at any good book or object they happen to lay their hands upon—as this book was in a pretty good shape without any doodles in any of its pages, except for its battered form because of the flow of time it had been subjected to. Back then, my class had had to study just an overview of the play THE MERCHANT OF VENICE in our English class. So as I was really curious as to what content the unabridged version of it possessed, I used to read the same play from the thick compilation.
They had also studied Sonnet Number xxix, whose translation from what I was able to perceive back then, was quite extraordinary according to my English teacher. The other kids used to blink pointedly while I rambled on with my review of the sonnet. My teacher was so happy that she had beamed about it to every other teacher in the school who had known me. I used to say, ‘Those who do not understand the “Shakespearean language” are normal.’ I guess that was meant to point out that I was in contrast from the others: abnormal. But frankly speaking, I had not much trouble with the “Shakespearean language” as my teacher deemed the form of English used in Shakespeare’s works, to be that much of a challenge at all. True, I would occasionally stumble upon many words that I was ignorant of in almost every other page, but that ignorance would be non-existent when I would try to grasp its meaning almost immediately with some form of trusted reference. I gave in to my ignorance and learnt loads from it rather than just slump shoulders and berate that I was a poor scholar of words and understanding when it came to the English language.
I loved the gentle cadences of speech of Shakespeare’s time and thought I ought to learn more of it. But ugh! Ninth Grade had ended by the time I could finish reading the play and I really was not allowed to spare even second looks at any form of books other than the prescribed schoolbooks when in Tenth Grade. Relentless as I was to conquer more of Shakespeare’s works, I tried to hunt for a complete compilation of his works—just like the one I used to read in the library in my old school. I later came to hear that the copy which I used to lovingly pore over was somehow misplaced or stolen. I was surprised to find myself involved in a heated discussion with the librarian—I would rather it was a fight—about how the woman could be so careless and misgiving about such a piece of treasure! All the librarian could do was hang her head when I told her how much such a copy of the compilation might cost in the local bookstores—figures! That was all the woman cared about; I was constantly fretting over the loss of an expensive book when I could have been mourning the misplacement of a jewel as that. What came out of the search for that book, I never know to this day as I care not for those who do not try to even appreciate the flavour and essence a book has to offer. Pathetic fools!
Though I had wanted to acquire a copy of Shakespeare’s compilation more than anything else, it made me frown when I came to know of how expensive it could cost. But by Jove! Lady Luck seemed to have looked over at me when I found a great copy for a very, very low and reasonable price after a few months when I was out with my cousin sister at our favourite haunt of a bookstore.
The compilation was in my possession for about five months in an idle state before I started to mesmerize A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. I was intrigued by what Edward, the lead character of the Twilight fiction series had said in the novel—either in Eclipse or in New Moon, I do not remember which to be exact—about love while he spoke of it with comparison to A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. I decided to trust the fictional vampire character that was deemed to be a good judge of such things given that he was a century old and delve into reading the play.
Just a few pages into the play and I had already made my way to the kitchen where mother was at work, to crow at her about how I felt—‘It’s absolutely amazing, mother! Now I finally get why everyone remarks Shakespeare is a real genius. This is just like a long soap opera—there are other plots hidden beneath the main plots—but those which I can keep track of. And the vivid, fantabulous descriptions! Ah, what refreshing scenes they offer me with every word I read aloud!’ My mother just smiled at me, what knowledge of Shakespeare did she have in her to offer and share some with me? That is something I adore in my mother: she never gives half-baked advices or suggestions. Isn’t it simply much better staying put when you’re not aware of something than stutter over some newly formed assumptions the prideful mind can think of?
I had stopped after just a few pages into the play for I had much academic studying to do for the mid-term examinations in my pre-university college. But I am sure that I will come back to start from where I had left off as I am very, very much eager to drown myself into the deeply exciting world the enthralling plot has to offer. But then again, I would not be wrong if I said that I had also quit for the moment as I was very nervous and afraid of how the next turn in the plot might turn out to be—so much for immersing completely in it, ha! Like I said, it has had on me all the effects that I would want to be showered upon me when dutifully engrossed in an interesting sitcom of my choice, just like a soap opera.
I do not really comprehend as to what ending note I should write in here as I cannot but think of only writing further about Shakespeare and his influence on me than put a stop to it in any way. The advent of Shakespeare on my life, time and time again in different revelations and periods of time has made me realize the constant changes in my outlook toward things, a different outlook every single time, how I come to appreciate the distinct essence of everything I come across and too much more that I could possibly come to know myself and put down in words—Shakespeare is my personal rondo.