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Things go from Bard to verse

中国日报网 2016-04-28 14:39



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Writer: Craig McIntosh

Like most people my age, I did Shakespeare at school. I know, "did" sounds awful here, but that's how we phrased it at my school. We didn't read or perform his work; we did it, because we were told to.

Frankly, I hated it. I remember dragging my feet on the way to English class, the thought of reading yet another chapter of Julius Caesar draining me of all enthusiasm.

I went to a standard secondary school in Northeast England. The teachers were OK, but we didn't have a drama department and the English teacher was not, shall we say, the most animated. He'd occasionally show us a video of a for-TV version of a Shakespeare play, which many of us just saw as an opportunity to draw rude things in each other's the textbooks.

To be honest, it's no wonder that a recent survey by the British Council found that the works of William Shakespeare are more popular and better understood in places like Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Turkey than in Britain. This, experts surmise, is probably to do with the fact the translations are easier to grasp than the original English text.

Such was my total lack of interest in the Bard back then that, when in my 20s I was offered a job at a newspaper in Stratford-upon-Avon, I was completely thrown when my mother exclaimed, "Oh, Shakespeare country!"

Of course, it took only minutes for the playwright to come up in a pub conversation with my new colleagues. "You don't like Shakespeare?" cried one with enough gusto to cause definite spillage among the people stood around us. "Well, er, no," I replied. "I just don't get it."

Within days I was sat in the stalls at the famous Royal Shakespeare Theatre waiting for the opening scene of Henry IV Part I.

I didn't exactly argue when the art editor thrust the tickets into my hand. I'd always liked the theater; I often went with my mother as a child, but usually to lighter fare like Guys and Dolls, not political dramas in ye olde English. Still, I didn't really want to be there.

Then, the curtain went up – and my life changed forever.

Suddenly, it all made sense. The words, movement, facial expressions, the emphasis the actors put on certain words, I was following it all. I even found myself laughing out loud at Falstaff.

I returned to the office the next day ready to take any press tickets going.

However, my newfound enthusiasm took a bit of a dent a couple of weeks later after I was asked to review a student production of Henry V.

"What did you think of the big battle scene, then?" my editor asked the next day, naturally keen to hear what treatment had been given to one of the most bloody scenes in British literature.

I looked at him blankly for a second or two and then replied, "What battle scene?"

Apparently I'd mistakenly left at half time.



Things go from Bard to verse

Greg Fountain is a copy editor and occasional presenter for China Daily. Before moving to Beijing in January, 2016 he worked for newspapers in the Middle East and UK. He has an M.A in Print Journalism from the University of Sheffield, a B.A in English and History from the University of Reading.

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