We all know who Shakespeare is. We have all been subject to the tortuous monologues and onslaughts of “thee’s” and “thou’s” by our high school and college English teachers, and some of us were even posed with the task of reciting the painful, yet timeless dialogue and forced to interpret the “ultimate underlying meaning.”
Well, I am here to say dash it all, and fie upon all scholastic interpretations and analyses of the man whose words carried those who read them like the rapids of the Colorado River sweep away a leaf, a tiny, fearful leaf screaming for a slight breath of air as it is consumed by the overwhelming force of the current. I say this because I feel like that leaf when reading Shakespeare, but you can also call me a sadomasochist.
However, what many people who have not had the lovely Dr. Sam Overstreet, teacher of the Shakespeare class on campus, to assist them in this eternal battle for linguistic transparency within Shakespeare’s text do not realize the “real world implications” that are incorporated into the bard’s works. They possess a perpetuating rhythm to life that is inherent within every aspect of this amorphous, chaotic collection of trifles I like to call the “human experience.” Shakespeare’s works apply to life because Shakespeare’s works are life itself, except through a 16th century lens. So, take my hand, come out of your tiny hovel of a dorm room and step into the blinding luminescence that is Shakespeare and his works.
I remember a time when I was lovesick. I remember a time when I had to abandon childish antics and assume responsibility when it was demanded of me. Hell, I even remember a time when my friends tried to stab me because I became too big for my britches. Just with the mention of these three instances I have already covered the primary plot structures of just about every one of his comedies along with, “The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “King Henry IV Parts 1 and 2” and “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”
I have been a mad Mercutio, a smitten Claudio, an ambitious Caesar (at least, Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an “honorable man,”), a playful Pompey and a dumbass Dogberry all in the same day. While some may deem this as being severely mentally and emotionally unstable, these characters all exhibit archetypal, humanistic traits of the proverbial individual. They love, they laugh, they live, they kill, they die and we watch with glazed eyes completely devoid of any discernible smidgen of fascination as our lives are being played out for us, and we do not even realize it.
I dare anyone to challenge the belief that Shakespeare was not in fact a pretentious schmuck who thoroughly enjoyed screwing around with the manifold complex of human emotion on stage, all the while getting paid by people who had no idea it was them who in fact he was making fun of. However, his works maintain an intricacy to their plot structure that goes far beyond anything anyone every created in the last millennia, maybe with the exception of Chaucer, but he was a chauvinistic tool.
While some contemporary authors may play around with their plots and character development, weaving together a mere two or three threads of structural integrity to maintain an air of simplicity, catering to those who read at a fifth-grade level, (yes, Stephanie Meyer and your tacky, deplorable excuse of a book series you call “Twilight,” I’m talking to you), Shakespeare weaves together a loom of plot structure, wordplay, character development and witty comedic relief all into five orgasmic acts.
But it is not the two to three hours of pure, unadulterated 16th century goodness that makes his works so moving, but it is the worlds that he creates of his own volition, through his own lens of interpretation that marks them as timeless brands of literary and theatrical loveliness. For instance, let us step back and take a good, long, hard look at some of the plays he has created and how their structures permeate into present-day, mainstream media.
For those of you that are not familiar with the plots of every single romantic comedy within the known universe, I will attempt to clarify and reiterate, Boy meets girl during a chance yet awkward encounter. Boy is head-over-heels for the broad but cannot articulate it into words. Girl remains ambivalent in her feelings to boy; boy and girl’s feelings finally begin to coalesce, then comes the climax. Boy and girl ensue in a ground breaking argument, forcing them to reevaluate their emotions and life positions. Realizing they truly do love each other, they reconcile, fall even more madly in love, and the movie usually ends with an abysmal, upbeat alternative rock or hip-hop love song, which by the end of the movie, I’m silently contemplating jumping off Anderson Hall’s less than stable roof due to the fact that I have seen this pattern too many times, even though it is exactly that pattern which allows the audience to connect to the narrative.
What I have just described is not only inherent within these god-awful B-list romantic comedies, but also resides within every single one of Shakespeare’s comedies, as well. Shakespeare was able to tap into the essential patterns of different narrative genres and reinterpret them in order to bring exciting, eternal stories to life.
Nevertheless, the point that I am trying to express is that no matter where you look in life, Shakespeare’s structures are applicable to multiplicities of human experience and their overall plurality is what ultimately eternalizes them as great paperweights within the offices of every professor in the scholastic universe.