Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Journey to RICHARD II, Part 4

On July 12, 2013, Joyce and I saw a production of Richard II, at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.  It was the last of the Bard's plays we had not seen in live performance.  I've been writing about earlier experiences with Shakespeare--and how all of them, more or less, propelled me to Lenox that night.

In my Kindle book Schoolboy (2012), a memoir about my early teaching career (mostly), is a chapter on Shakespeare, from which this passage is adapted.  I have, uh, bowdlerized some of it (the children are listening!), so if you want the full freaky thing, you'll have to pony up $4.99 and read it on your Kindle!  (Link to book on Amazon.com).  (BTW: Many of you know the origin of the term bowdlerize: Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825) produced a "cleaned up" version of Shakespeare--The Family Shakespeare--in 1807.)

My earlier posts have told how I was--to say the least--an unenthusiastic reader/fan of Shakespeare in high school and college.  I couldn't read it, and my fear of the Bard led me to avoid the college course on him I should have taken.  And so in the fall of 1966 I reeled into my public school English teaching career with a knowledge of Shakespeare I could have written on the surface of an M&M--regular, not peanut.

But then ... a change ...  The conversation I record here, by the way, actually occurred, though, of course, it would be impossible to remember it verbatim--but it was worlds of fun re-creating it!

Summer 1967.  A mobile home in Silo, Ohio.

In my trailer, late in the evening, I can hear clearly the voices of the man and the woman from several units away.  Both sound as if they’ve been drinking; both sound angry.  He speaks first. 
I don’t see how you can like that queer Tom Jones!
I love Tom Jones!
I just bet you do.
You know I do.
I bet if Tom Jones walked in here right now singing that queer “Green, Green Grass of Home,” you’d *** him, wouldn’t you?
You know I would!  I would strip naked and *** him so fast he wouldn’t know what happened.
I just bet you would.  I bet you really would.  I bet you’d *** his ***, too.
I would.  I would *** him, right in front of you.  And then I would *** his big ***, right in front of you.
I bet you would  I just bet you would …
I am wondering about this conversation as I lie there and listen to it.  Would Tom Jones really drive along State Rte. 82 in Portage County, Ohio, stop at this trailer park in the little area called Silo, between Mantua (pronounced MAN-uh-WAY) and Aurora, walk down the street to one of the trailers, knock, enter, get *** and ***?  It doesn’t seem all that likely.
Nor does it seem all that likely that I am doing what I am doing, lying here in a trailer that isn’t mine.  It belongs to the Aurora High School band director, who has let me stay in it while he and his wife are back home in Pennsylvania for the summer.  I do not yet have a place of my own.  I have moved out of my Twinsburg apartment because I’m going to save money this year by sharing a place with a colleague, another middle-school teacher who rents a place out in Aurora Township.  But that place isn’t available yet, so I need to be somewhere until the school year starts.  My belongings—few as they are—I’ve stored with another friend.
Now I’m living here alone in a trailer park full of people I don’t know.  I can hear their radios, TVs, children, arguments.  Like the one about sex with Tom Jones that has interrupted my reading of Hamlet.
Yes, I’m reading Hamlet.  On a sultry summer night I’m lying here on the couch in a borrowed trailer reading Hamlet in one of the little blue Yale Shakespeare volumes my parents gave me a year and a half ago.  I’ve decided it’s time to read some Shakespeare—especially this play, the most famous of them all.  I’m not at all sure what I’m reading, but just this year I’ve begun to think of myself as an “intellectual,” and what kind of intellectual has never read Hamlet, you know?
I recently looked at that little blue copy of Hamlet and at my pen-underlinings and marginalia from that summer in Silo.  The first lines I underlined were these (by Horatio, discussing the appearance of the Ghost):
But in the gross and scope of my opinion,
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
In the margin I have written fore.  Yes, this is foreshadowing.  As smart as Shakespeare is, he has not fooled me
I underlined quite a few lines, but my marginalia are few and terse.  Beside Polonius’ advice to his son, Laertes, I wrote: To thine own self be true.  Beside Hamlet’s What a piece of work is a man! I noted, perceptively, man.  And beside Hamlet’s instructions to the players I wrote acting.  I’m not sure what prompted me to write these words, but I can sort of recall my pride and self-satisfaction and even wonder as I was reading.  I am reading Hamlet!  I am reading Hamlet!

1 comment: