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Birthday Bash for the Bard

April 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

At 445 years old, William Shakespeare is still going strong.  The Carleton English department threw him a birthday party to celebrate the work of the old Bard.  At least, we’re reasonably sure that April 23, 1564 was his birthday.  There are a lot of things that we don’t know about this writer, but we do know that he wrote a body of really good plays (Christopher Marlowe conspiracy theories aside).  For the occasion, the English department performed some of his most famous scenes.

The theme this year was “Shakespeare’s women,” including Laura Stratford ’09 as Katarina, giving Petruchio a thorough tongue-lashing.  Stephanie Strother ’10 played Juliet debating to herself whether to take the drug that will render her nearly dead so she can be with Romeo.  Morgan Holmes ‘11 played Ophelia in the scene where Hamlet tells her to get to a nunnery.  The department also put on a scene of the incredible romantic confusion of the Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Chris Dole ‘10, the emcee, drew our attention to Shakespeare’s pioneering work in coining terms and phrases; we quote Shakespeare far more often than we realize.  Some passages from Hamlet look like catalogues of modern English idioms:

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

And speaking of Hamlet, what birthday party for Shakespeare would be complete without a Hamlet-off?  Four students each performed one of his soliloquies.  Stephanie Strother did “O, that this too solid flesh would melt;” Anna Preus ‘11, “Oh, what a rogue;” Christin Johnson ‘10, “To be or not to be;” and Chelsea Low ‘11, “How all occasions.”  All four actresses really got their Hamlet on.

The celebration ended with some deliberately bad theater from the play-within-a-play at the end of Midsummer’s.  It involved Pyramus, Thisbe, and an unfortunately-placed hole.  Then all the actors got up and danced to great applause.

“Why Shakespeare?” Chris Dole asks.  Shakespeare has managed to capture something about the “universality of human experience.”

All the party needed to be complete was a double wedding at the end.