For this year’s A to Z Blog challenge, I thought I’d draw back the curtain and explore the life and times of a bibliophile. Care to join me?
My father adored all things Shakespeare. When I was growing up, he quoted long passages from Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, and Hamlet.
It was the rise and fall of the language, the fluidity with which my father reeled off lines like:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
I first picked up Julius Caesar when I was about seven, but I struggled with the symbolism, with the history of it. Dad, bless his heart, suggested I try something a little more straightforward. Like Romeo and Juliet. I did, and he was right; it was easier for me to get my head around Romeo and Juliet, although I thought both of them were idiots. It may have taken me another year to tackle Julius Caesar, but I managed it.
I bought my first collection of the Bard when I was ten, a volume I still have. It was partly a gift from Mrs. Brand, and each time I look at it, I am reminded of her and of her place in my life. Recently, I saw a play titled The Book of Will, which tells the story of how the first folio of Shakespeare’s collected works came into existence. When I think of how close the world came to losing his manuscripts forever, I am again reminded how fragile our words, our stories really are. We need to share them both, so the tapestry of our lives and our stories continue to enrich the lives of the people around us, particularly the people we love.