I was taking a walk in a strange part of town when I came upon a pub named “The Bard”. I often took these walks into the unknown for a change of scene.
I decided to go in and have a beer after all I was a writer. The décor was a replica of Elizabethan England. Panels of dark wood on all the walls resplendent with large tapestries hanging all around. There was a lot of red and dark green colours on the booths and barstools. Also on the walls were oil paintings depicting all of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. There was very low lighting.
I sat at the bar opposite a painting of the Seven Ages of Man from “As You Like It”. The bartender brought me my beer and before I could take a sip a fella jumped up on the stool next to me. He looked like he was scared to death! He ordered a beer and a shot of whiskey, which is called a “boilermaker” because it will make you hot under the collar quickly! My stool mate gulped down the shot and then took a sip of beer.
“Boy, this place is spooky! All these tragedies hanging on the walls, even that picture of the ages of man is scary!”
“Are you acquainted with the bard’s work?” I asked, hoping he would calm down.
“Not much, I find his stories scary even the comedies.”
“Relax, these stories are about life, they are about the human condition. We all go through tragedy and comedy in our lives.”
“It’s the way he uses words, they go straight to your soul, it’s like being under analysis by a psychiatrist.”
I smiled, this chap was amusing and he didn’t even know it.
“You should try reading some of his plays because I’m sure you would enjoy his stories highlighting the human condition.”
“Well, I’ve been having bouts of insomnia lately and some hallucinations with voices in my head.”
The man needed help. Was Shakespeare the answer, I wondered?
“I’ve found that Shakespeare must have had an understanding of how the mind works because he inserted this understanding in his characters.”
My stool mate looked incredulous.
“You mean to tell me that reading Shakespeare can inspire me to be more reflective about my own behavior?”
“That’s right! Look at the symptoms you’ve just stated. They suggest impaired cognitive function and mild psychiatric breakdown.”
He was staring into space, now.
“What play did that come from?” He stammered.
“Macbeth, he had the same symptoms.”
“My father has dementia, any play with that in?”
“Yes, King Lear, his speech was impaired with madcap outbursts. He veered from not recognizing his own daughter to moments of clarity, all suggesting dementia.”
“Wow! All that from reading Shakespeare! I have a friend with bipolar disorder, any play with that in?”
“Yes, Hamlet, his mood swings and rage, his highs and lows made him melancholic and impulsive, which are indicative of bipolar disorder.”
“My God, this is amazing and spookier than ever!”
“So my friend, you don’t need to fear Shakespeare, just read him for an illumination of the Human Experience.”
“What about his confusing language?”
“He coined many words and phrases in the English language. If he couldn’t find the word he was looking for, he invented it!”
“Well, after listening to you I’m not sure if I should study Shakespeare.”
“Think it over carefully,” I told him firmly.
He walked out the door mumbling:
“TO READ OR NOT TO READ, THAT IS THE QUESTION!”