M. SCOTT MORRIS: Give the William Shakespeare a chance to thrill you

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

They say the devil can cite scripture for his purpose, and you know who “they” are.

In this case, “they” are/is William Shakespeare. That’s one of his lines from “The Merchant of Venice.”

I’ve set myself a daunting task today, and I’m probably not the best messenger. I’m not a Shakespearean scholar, and I’ve never acted in or directed one of his plays.

But I’ve been a casual fan since high school, when they took us to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery to see “The Taming of the Shrew.”

This past Sunday, my wife and I joined a somewhat modest crowd for a hilarious production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” during the 10th and final season of the Oxford Shakespeare Festival.
I’ve been told Shakespeare isn’t the biggest draw for today’s audiences.

Tupelo Community Theatre had a noticeable drop-off in attendance when it staged “I Hate Hamlet” because the comedy’s title hints at Shakespeare.

To be fair, it’s often difficult to understand what the Bard is saying.

His expansive and poetic vocabulary has left me flummoxed and groping for meaning.

I probably would’ve given up on the man’s writing as soon as I wasn’t required to read it, except the parts I actually understand are often mind-blowing.

My favorite example is on the bawdy side, but have you ever heard a better description for sex than “the beast with two backs” from “Othello?”

In “The Merchant of Venice,” he wrote “love is blind,” and in “As You Like It,” he delivered “we have seen better days.”
I like to joke that the main problem with Shakespeare is all the clichés he uses. In truth, they became clichés because we’ve been copying his originals:

• “It was Greek to me.” – “Julius Caesar.”

• “He hath eaten me out of house and home.” – “King Henry IV, Part II.”

• “Let’s kill all the lawyers.” – “King Henry the Sixth, Part II.”

• “I’ll not budge an inch.” – “The Taming of the Shrew.”

• “What’s done is done.” – “Macbeth.”

• “T’is neither here nor there.” – “Othello.”

• “I will wear my heart upon my sleeve.” – “Othello.”

That’s a tiny sampling of the jewels that sparkle from Shakespeare’s pen.

You’re as likely to have heard them from your grandmother’s lips as from an actor treading a stage.

It’s almost a sin to mention Green Mountain in my hometown of Huntsville, Ala., in the same sentence as Mount Everest because there’s far too much to contrast and so very little to compare.

I’ve few illusions about where my words will be in five days, much less five years. Shakespeare’s words have survived some 500 years, and they’ll last for as long as civilization endures.

If the opportunity arises, give the man another chance to thrill you.

• “This is the short and long of it.” – “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

M. SCOTT MORRIS is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@journalinc.com.

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