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Shakespeare came to Bend this month, and it has been a delight. He was sponsored by our Deschutes public library, under the title Know Shakespeare. Yesterday it was David McCandless, presenting a talk entitled Becoming Shakespeare. McCandless is presently a professor of Shakespeare studies at Southern Oregon University, near where Oregon’s world-famous Ashland Shakespeare Festival is held. He introduces us to Shakespeare and shares some fascinating and surprising information about the man who most people feel is the greatest playwright of all time. His lecture was free and open to the public, and was well attended by people obviously dedicated to the bard, because they asked many poignant questions during the lecture. McCandless took several chunks of the bard’s work and dissected them in a scholarly way, which led quickly to a deeper understanding for me and I suspect for everyone.

Richard II Act 3 Scene 2

KING RICHARD II

And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

I came away with many a feeling, but one of how similar this soliloquy was to Hamlet’s. In the middle of Richard’s a needle replaces Hamlet’s bare bodkin, and with Shylock’s suffering speech at the end, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” compared strangely to Richard’s “I live with bread like you, feel want, Taste grief, need friends…” It left me wondering how many other times Shakespeare reworked his own wonderful scenes.

After the talk, I and Debbie walked two blocks over to Dudley’s bookstore coffee shop, for an English Tea Time luncheon, and as luck would have it, McCandless came by a half hour later and sat talking with me for an hour more. What a fine time we had. It turns out he spent several years at Berkeley, as did I, so along with Stephen Greenblatt whom I talked with last week, and whom he knew well, we had plenty of reminiscence along with barding.

As far as Bend is from the center of the Earth, it hasn’t fallen off.

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