Shakespeare is for Lovers

Posted: October 17, 2009 by meganhess in Uncategorized
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I never considered myself a real Shakespeare buff. I analyzed the odd Macbeth passage in tenth grade AP English, and ogled over Jude Law in the posters for Hamlet (which, unfortunately, stopped showing in London just prior to my arrival). And that was basically the extent of my relationship with good ol’ William (we’re on a first-name basis). So when one of my flatmates asked me to accompany to him to see As You Like It at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, I hesitated. But as a great man once said, when in Rome, right? So, being cheap college students, we purchased 5-pound standing room tickets.

I'm on the left.

I'm on the left.

Okay, quick little history lesson: the original Globe Theater burned down in 1613 when a stage cannon set fire to the thatched roof. A second Globe was quickly rebuilt with a tiled roof, but was closed down by straight-edge Puritans who disapproved of theater performances. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the third Globe opened up.

This reconstruction, just across the Millennium Bridge (see: sixth Harry Potter movie), is mostly dead-on faithful to the original. The roof is made of water reed thatch, based on samples found during the excavation of the original theater. The stage was designed based on sketches of buildings from the 16th century. Although I’m pretty positive that the original theatre didn’t have illuminated exit signs and a Globe gift shop and Pizza Express next door. Oh, and the roof is protected by fire-retardant materials, just in case a cannon goes out of control again.

As we inched our way through the intricately engraved wooden doors, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The stands were packed with packs of 20-somethings sipping lattes, canoodling couples linked arm-in-arm, and elderly men and women adjusting their eyeglasses. The show was sold out. And from the chatter that surrounded me, I got the feeling that this was the norm. Regardless of the 400-year time difference, Shakespeare transcends time and space.



My entire life, my relationship with William had been limited to translating his archaic vocabulary word-for-word. The colloquialisms we’d learned in AP English had gone in one ear and out the other;  I’d never really been able to see the bigger picture. But now – with my elbows resting on the stage watching men with British accents flaunt around in skinny jeans – I understood. I was laughing out loud! To Shakespeare! My favorite scenes were ripe with irony, with Rosalind, a recently exiled daughter of an exiled duke, roaming about the forest of Arden disguised in men’s clothing. The feisty actress even fools her love interest, Orlando, into thinking she’s a dude. Then Orlando gets into a smackdown-style wrestling match. Quality shit, I’m telling you. When a jet flew overhead (there’s a large opening in the roof), the actors paused in a confused stupor, pondering the foreign sound before resuming with the play.

At the end of the almost-three hour show, the packed stands rose in unison for a standing ovation (I was ahead of the game, thanks to my standing-room tickets). In my excitement, I even emailed my high school English teacher to complain about the lack of real exposure to Shakespeare. A bit dramatic? Perhaps. But in the end, all the world’s a stage.

-Megan Hess

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