Thought of the week: Happy birthday Shakespeare
This week Michelle Terry has chosen a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in light of Shakespeare’s birthday
Earlier in the week, someone told me that a writer friend of theirs was considering no longer writing, they wanted to do something more useful.
I immediately understood the sentiment. With so many people suffering at the moment, I understand the desire to do something that is of immediate and obvious use to people and the world.
‘Such tricks hath strong imagination’ but it’s hard to see how those tricks bear fruit; It’s hard to quantify the seemingly unquantifiable.
With more time I am sure I could find statistics about the psychological, sociologically even economic impact of the power of our imaginations. Writers, artists, teachers, speechwriters, bloggers, accountants (!) have made creativity their profession. But we all engage in creative thinking every day, we all tell a story, even if it’s to let someone know what happened when we went to the shop.
As schools remain shut and parents are forced to think creatively every waking minute of every day, a teacher took to Facebook to reassure parents that once schools were open again, they would use their superpower to teach their children, but ‘What I can’t fix is the social-emotional trauma that prevents the brain from learning…. I need you to share your calm, share your strength, and share your laughter…’
That doesn’t just apply to parents and their kids. That applies to all of us. What kind of friend, colleague, partner, mother can I be if I don’t acknowledge the lunatic, the lover and the poet in me – if I don’t honour and respect the importance of my imagination and its insatiable hunger?
So as I watched my friend’s gig on Facebook live, I felt so grateful to him for sharing his heart through the music the poetry and the hope. The 1978 epic, Deerhunter, appeared on television late on Sunday night and I couldn’t take my eyes off it; the sheer audacity of the cinematography and the heartbreaking generosity of the performances captured my imagination and held me long after I wanted to be in bed. I watched Roger Allam speak some words of Prospero for our Love in Isolation series and he powerfully reminded me that ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on’….
Dreams, our mind’s eye, our imagination – all things that make us uniquely human.
And I know that all of those things are saving me at the moment. There is great power and saving grace in sharing stories, sharing the madness, sharing the love, and the poetry of this time. It is not to be underestimated. It is not to be scoffed at. It is food for the soul and ‘the soul never thinks without a picture. Hope is the dream of a waking man.’ –Aristotle, and we all need stories of hope right now.
Once Upon A Time, someone somewhere had an idea.
Captain Tom Moore had an idea he would walk 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday and raise money for the NHS. At the time of writing he has raised over £28 million.
Annemarie Plas nicked an idea from her relatives in the Netherlands and now we all stand on our doorsteps and clap on a Thursday night.
22 April is Earth Day. It’s been 22 April every year since 1970. But since Greta Thunberg had an idea, she has made every single day Earth Day. A 17-year-old girl and David Attenborough have brought this cause into such sharp focus that we are all being forced to use our imaginations: to consider the state of the planet now, and imagine what the world could be in the future.
Look what thy soul holds dear, imagine it
To lie that way thou goest, not whence thou com’st.
The world we live in now is because someone had an idea once.
The world we leave behind is because we had an idea once.
So as I frantically pore over the worksheets sent by my daughters amazing preschool and try and get her to understand the concept of rhyme, and panic about the fact that all I can come up with is: ‘you’ rhymes with ‘poo’…. I also have to remember that ‘educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’ –Aristotle. And whilst building a snowman out of cushions may not get her in to university, we are laughing like lunatics, I love her more than life, and whilst ‘you’ rhyming with ‘poo’ may not be a work of genius, it’s poetry to us.
I hope the writer has second thoughts about picking up their ‘poets pen’ again, because it does matter. It heals. It expands, It educates. It offers another way, it ‘gives to airy nothing… a name.’
Shakespeare had an idea once.
Imagine a world without Shakespeare?
Happy Birthday Shakespeare. And thank you for everything.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact…
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination.
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream
THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Each week during the UK lockdown, our Artistic Director Michelle Terry shares her Thought of the Week.
Using Shakespeare’s language, Michelle reflects on the individual and universal meaning of the words. By giving personal and emotional insight, she uses the quote to relate to, and express, the mood of this uncertain time.