Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shakespeare for Indians

Recently, in Melbourne I watched a wonderful production of Richard III. It was set in a corporate environment, complete with laptops and messages on cell phone. It was a gripping production, filled with venom humour and, of course, lots of blood and betrayal. It opens with Richard’s soliloquy: ‘This is the winter of our discontent…’ And ends with ‘My kingdom for a horse…’
As I have said before, there is something everlasting about Shakespeare. He wouldn’t at all be out of place in India today. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat; and we must take the current when it serves, Or Lose our Ventures’. (Julius Caesar). I’m sure our politicians must remember these lines as they push out their boats into the sea of absolute power.
I can well imagine what’s happening in Sonia-ji’s residence at this very moment. She’s turning to her chamchas and saying: ‘Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have immortal longings in me’. (Anthony & Cleopatra).
And while she prepares, we see her party man himself in the wings, Mr P.C ‘ whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath rides on the posting winds, and doth belie All corners of the world’. (Cymbeline). And surely, Sonia-ji must admit about her man, the PM: ‘An ill-favoured thing, sir, but mine own.’ (As You Like it).
I thought old Will had a kind word for Mayawati too : ‘There was never yet fair woman but she made mouths in a glass’. (King Lear). And I guess we can apply that to all the politicians who swore undying allegiance to one party on the 7 o’clock news and switched sides by the 8 o’clock news swearing with equal fervour for the opposition. I suppose he would say of our political leaders: ‘Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile: Filth savour but themselves.’ (KL).
Unfortunately, our politicians can’t boast: ‘A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest is a bold spirit in a loyal breast. Mine honour is my life; both grow in one; Take honour from me, and my life is done.’ If this were the oath of loyalty to be taken by our politicians, I fear they’d all have to impale themselves on their party flags or drown in their money chests. Of course they wouldn’t dream of uttering such dangerous words. On second thoughts they would, as words mean little to them.
Most of them would be able to say with full truthfulness: ‘And thus I clothe my naked villainy with old odd ends stolen out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil’, (Richard III).
On leaving his office as Minister of State in the Foreign Office and brooding over his resignation letter, pen in hand, our Shashi Tharoor must have thought to himself: ‘Is this is a dagger (or twitter) which I see before me, the handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible to feeling as to sight? Or art thou but a twitter of the mind, a false creation, proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?’ (Macbeth).
While those of us one billion-odd who watch from the sidelines can only say: ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances…’ and the speech finally ends: ‘ Last scene of all, that ends this strange history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.'’(As You like it).

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