It was on a Sunday, July 13, 1997, that another worthy gentleman, one Arthur Schulman – a cruciverbalist of note – created an ingenious crossword for the New York Times devoted almost entirely to the same genius, but with all the solutions sans vowels. Hence, the subject of the puzzle appeared as SHKSPR, and his sobriquet, Bard of Avon, as BRDFVN; to cap it all, the 1623 publication of his monumental works, First Folio, appears as FRSTFL. In the same genre, I’ve been emboldened to letter my subject heading.
I’m sorry to inform my readers that I have no shorthand way of writing about my favorite playwright four centuries after his death, but I will begin at the beginning with my treasured and doorstep tome of “The Riverside Shakespeare” that bears the dog-eared imprint of my forays over time into two well-thumbed plays – Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.
At the same time, my twin sister had a minor role in the latter, which I attended at her convent school next door. We had fun those halcyon days in trying out the Elizabethan cadences in front of our friends and family members at frolicsome birthday parties in their drawing rooms long after the staged events were over.
On a more serious note, I had occasion to visit Germany several times in my mid-40’s representing a U.S. arts education organization. A German friend of mine connected with a similar institution in his country picked me up at the International Airport in Frankfurt on my arrival from New York and sped me in his Mercedes Benz 300 northwards on the Autobahn all the way to Braunschweig, where I would be visiting the manufacturing center of the Schimmel Piano which was interested in replacing some of the aging instruments back home in our member community arts schools.
But first things first: My friend soon after arrival insisted on my going with him to a professional production of Macbeth. My knowledge of the spoken language was meager. Nevertheless, the following evening we repaired to the imposing State Theater, touting a Macbeth production at its entrance, and I couldn’t have done better anywhere else in the world. (See image alongside.)
At that time, by the way, I could read Goethe, for example, fairly fluently. But, all said and done, I was able to understand most of the dialogue in Schlegel’s translation. Consider for a moment, that his seminal work’s transmogrification took place 200 years after the Bard’s death, so that the end result – to my mind – is to this day not lost in translation, but indeed is even more understandable than the Old English original.
I’ve always admired the opera production of Verdi’s Macbeth, especially that conducted by my favorite Riccardo Muti at La Scala in Milan.
You may watch all or part of this remarkable YouTube recording. Without doubt, the work is unusual as the only one of Shakespeare’s tragedies to be popular over time in its operatic mode with the general public.
Copyright © 2016 Azim Lewis Mayadas