While shifting a pile of books on the lower shelf of a bookcase I discovered a tall stack of books that had been hidden from view for some years. In the stack were two Modern Library editions from my undergraduate days at Montana State College: New Voices in American Theater and The Tragedies of Shakespeare.
New Voices, published in 1955, has a forward by Brooks Atkinson and contains six plays that made it big on Broadway in the 50’s and were later converted into movies. Three of the plays were staged by the MSC theater while I was a student: A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, and Tea and Sympathy. I played a minor role in Sympathy and did stage work on the other two during a brief interlude from my engineering studies. This volume is a keeper and will be immune from the on-going library clean up.
The Shakespeare volume, on the other hand is pretty standard stuff and I now refer to my copy of the Complete Pelican Shakespeare on the rare occasions when I read the Bard.
The modern library Tragedies, of course, includes Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The opening line of the play has Bernardo, a palace guard, say the immortal words: “Who’s there?”. Hardly a memorable first line, but the scene continues with the eventual appearance of the ghost of the dead, foully murdered, King. The overall effect of the scene is powerful has a lasting visual impact on the play goer.
Tucked away at the start of Act 3, scene 1 of Hamlet I found a bookmark that on examination turned out to be my invitation to the Drama Honorary Alpha Psi Omega. And then I remembered; I had memorized and spoke Hamlet’s famous speech from that scene at my initiation to the society.
To be or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Hamlet Prince of Denmark, Act III, Scene I
I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I selected that speech to “emote” in front of veteran actors and two English professors who were the honoraries faculty sponsors. I’m still embarrassed at the thought of having exposed my lack of thespian skills to that theater savvy audience. I got much from my brief exposure to the theater, but my skills, if any, didn’t lie in acting but in stagecraft.
Off you go Tragedies (I’ll keep the bookmark).
The deaccession count: Days 4, Books 11.