I am not a Shakespearean scholar, educator, actor, nor involved in theatre. I am not a particularly good public speaker and most definitely not an orator. But I have been known to devour the written word, on a gastronomical scale.
I love words, witty words, clever words and the clever use of clever words. Words are evocative and powerful, full of life, strength and courage. I love how words can make us laugh, how words stay with us forever. Flowers die, a gift may be lost, melted or burnt; but words are for keeps, even if the person who spoke them no longer exists. Once spoken, they cannot be retrieved by the speaker, only cherished or cursed by the hearer.
Words are connectors – of minds, hearts, spirits, of even words themselves – and breakers of connections. Creating, building, dissolving and dispersing.
Words make sense of our universe, give name to the nameless and definition to the shapeless, adding lustre to our lives. Words can shape our destiny.
Words can be heard with our ears, seen by our eyes, and felt by our spirit. Words can do all things – comfort, console, tease, annoy, caress, wound, cheer, raise, praise, deflect, disarm, and on and on and on. They lift our spirits to the heavens or crash us to the pits of doom. Words take us on journeys, up hills and down dales, and are there with us from the beginning to the end – or so we hope.
Words can be slick and smart, astute, crafty, glib and wily, pert or flippant. Words can be so full of meaning that the heavens shower stars upon our head, or so superficial and worthless that they are immediately discarded in the reject heap. Crafted together in a certain way, words can dance a most glorious jig.
Words can be bandied about, back and forth, back and forth, like a game of ping pong vying for a winner. Words can be tossed over the shoulder without thought, or thrown needlessly away. Words can win wars.
Words can be regarded as commonplace and of little value, just ordinary, everyday nuances. Or they can be marketable products, marked and branded by the highest bidder, worth millions.
Words are flexible, adaptable, able to change with the times. According to dictionaries – that place where words like to hang out together – words ‘function as principal carriers of meaning’. What is thought without words?
Words have given so very much, and yet we think of them so little.
Rumour has it that the longest word in the English language contains 189,819 letters and takes three hours to pronounce – ‘Methionylthreonylthreonylglutaminylarginyl…isoleucine’, being the chemical name of ‘titin’, the largest known protein.
Whilst estimating the number of words ever written is likely to be a monumental and near impossible task, give words a chance and they may be able to crack it.
Words are something shared between all. No single person can lay claim to any one word used, and say ‘that word is mine, I am the sole possessor and you shall not have it!’ – although some have tried.
Words may take different forms, resonate with different sounds, yet mean the same. One word, spoken in one moment, one place, may be passed on, re-spoken in the next moment, in another place, by another.
Or a word may be stored away, for months, even centuries, before being used again, in another time, another place, by another. The cobwebs dusted off, the essence polished, all shiny and lustrous, and bought forth, shimmering in new daylight.
Rules and regulations are framed around words – this one has to go with that one, and never with that one over there – the epitome of discrimination or extreme practicality? It is ordained that words are to be controlled precisely, or the sky will fall down upon our heads. ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ repeatedly asked by the comma. Regardless of forced enclosure, words have retained their freedom and spring eternal within the glades of creation.
It has been said by some that a picture says a thousand words, but I say that words can stay with you forever, and therefore you may only need a few. A welcome bonus for the frugal.
Shakespeare (or someone else around his time) created many, many words and terms we use today. He is revered for this, because as we all know, if it had not been so, we could never ever say ‘Let the sky rain potatoes’ and where would we be without that? I for one, would be lost for words.
‘My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
What day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. . . .’
Decades on from schooldays I decided to host a Shakespearean dinner party. Lacking any idea regarding what form it would take or time to undertake the slightest research, the concept developed of its own accord. Fortunately for me, we had chosen an easy play – ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Easy in that all players could be allocated a major character, a fairy and a mechanical, and participate in most scenes.
My friends and I had such merriment, that we decided to do another play, and another, and another. Hence Dinner Play was born. Although we don’t have actors’ voices, dramatic training, or scholarly understanding, we have had immense fun. In fact, for reasons yet to be fathomed, we have on occasion laughed so exceedingly hard and at such lengths, neighbours have been known to say “What on earth were you doing the other night? I looked over to your garden and saw people wearing wigs and laughing like crazy”.
All we can say is “Words, witty words, clever words and the clever use of clever words”.
Don’t waste the treasure of your time.
everyone’s a player.
Just add dinner.