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If your only experience with the Bard (a nickname for Shakespeare, bard meaning poet) was a torturous memorizing of Julius Ceasar’s monologue, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears” in 10th grade English, you might be wondering why Shakespeare inspires Dr. Bloom.
Why not another great playwright like Tennessee Williams, Beth Henley, or David Mament? Why not someone more modern, more in tune with today and Dr. Bloom himself? Why not, indeed! I propose that there is nothing so modern, so timely, so in touch with the issues of living than Shakespeare. He covered everything from indecision to death, apathy to passion, from side splitting humor to quadruple homicides. The full spectrum of humanity resides in his plays and poetry. Dr. Bloom is a bit of Renaissance man himself. He played piano for 12 years in his youth and young adulthood, is naturally curious, and maybe most importantly, he is willing to struggle with the text of Shakespeare. He discovered riches of movement and language in analyzing and performing Hamlet.
For example, one of Hamlet’s lines to his mother, in Act 3 Scene 4:
“Nay, by the rood not so.”
What is a rood? Dr. Bloom discovered that a rood is the sign of the cross. Realizing this led to making the sign of the cross. The movement began as a small cross, but with time and practice, it became larger (more movement) and more distinct. The language informed the gesture and the gesture informed the language. Speaking of language, the poetry and cleverness of Shakespeare make for feisty scenes between actors. Look at these lines of Hamlet and Gertrude:
Gertrude: Hamlet, thou has thy father much offended.
Hamlet: Mother, thou hast my father much offended.
For these lines to work, the actors must listen and engage with one another. When Dr. Bloom and I first rehearsed this scene, I kept missing Gertrude’s line, saying things like “Hamlet, much offended is thy father.” or “Thou offended thy father, Hamlet.” Dr. Bloom, being a Southern gentleman, did not correct me, even though I had completely messed up his line by messing up my own. He would say, “Mother, thou hast my father much offended,” but my goof ruined the poetry and rhythm of the scene.
Studying, grappling with, memorizing, and performing Shakespeare have improved Dr. Bloom’s ability to move, enhanced his dexterity, and strengthened his voice. The Bard floats Dr. Bloom’s boat! As it turns out, Shakespeare’s language stimulates our brains more than almost any other writer, except Wordsworth! Please check out the study from the University of Liverpool at the link below.
So, maybe those friends, Romans, and countrymen did more for us than we realized! If you are thinking about giving the Bard another whirl, check out spark-notes:
for a summary of the play and then dive into the text. Set your brain on fire!