Life is made up of many series of contradictions, at least my life is. I am a Classicist; and yet, I adore futuristic-dystopian-science-fiction-fantasy.
Yup, I do. So, Tolkien, Pratchett, Kurtz, Eddings for leisure reading.
I like(d) to watch Highlander, FlashForward, Eureka, Warehouse 13, Alphas. I am currently watching Revolution (and I am undecided about it). And, of course, as I have mentioned before, Doctor Who. I am a Whovian. I love the storylines, the quality of scripts, the roundness of the characters. I like that they are flawed—tragically in some instances. The running, well, maybe not so much the running. It’s ok, I suppose, because I’m not the one doing it. Other people running is ok, The Doctor running is ok. Me running, not so much.
On the other hand, I watch Downton Abbey for the house, the clothes, and the language. Yes, the language! I like that the script is filled with what Americans commonly refer to as SAT vocabulary. I like that I have not been stumped by a word in this show. But as I said, I’m a classicist. Given the choice between Grease and Much Ado About Nothing, Much Ado would win every time. In fact, I’ve never seen Grease.
Ever. Like Grease, it’s a boy-meets-girl story. But Much Ado is Shakespeare: The Bard. It’s my favorite Shakespeare. It’s snide, and snarky, with a gutsy woman.
And Dogberry, with his misuse of the language that causes him to say all of the right things—listen carefully to the things he “confuses,” he’ll teach you a thing or two. He’s pretty astute, for an ass. Dogberry has long been my favorite in this play, and as one of Shakespeare’s clowns (about whom I could devote a whole book). I love that Will thumbs his nose to the aristocracy, to his patrons. People often imagine which characters Shakespeare played on stage. People often think he played the kings. But I don’t think so, I think he played the clown–the character with the political, social, philosophical message in the play. In Much Ado, I imagine he struggled between his desire to play Benedick and Dogberry. But I digress, I love the period clothes, the language. I love Will’s absolute presence, five hundred years later. Shakespeare didn’t write plays for the people in his audience—he made love to them (and if anyone was smart enough to catch on, with them), with each and every stage direction, motion, and word.
If I could travel in time with the Doctor and he asked me where I wanted to go, it would be to the Globe Theatre. I wouldn’t even have to pause (of course, it would have to be with the Tenth Doctor, for reasons that will become obvious as you continue to read). I would just love to listen to Will! Shakespeare used 31,534 different words. 14,376 words appeared only once and 846 were used more than 100 times. Linguists can, based on this information, estimate how many words Will knew.
66,534 (give or take).
Yes, I would just sit and absorb his brilliance, praying just a little rubbed off. Just a word or two. The Doctor would have to do any running companion-less. Smart is sexy–and 66,534 is bloody brilliant.
So, needless to say, when I heard that David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, was playing Benedick to Catherine Tate’s Beatrice, well I was in. It was a quest to find it, but persistence paid off and it can be had here for about $20, American. I watched the trailer. Mr. Tennant was dressed in a modern British naval uniform, and Ms. Tate had a sort of modernized Annie Hall look going on. I was sad. I fully expected to be disappointed. But the acting! Oh the acting! Tennant doesn’t play Benedick so much as he is Benedick! He exudes Benedick. Tennant and Tate play off each other brilliantly. They channel the Bard. They address each other, themselves, the audience. Shakespeare, with all of his 66,534 words, would have been humbled by their performance. For, like Shakespeare, Tennant and Tate are making some kind of love up there on the stage. I was so enraptured that when Dogberry arrived, I thought to myself, oh right, Dogberry, he’s in this too, isn’t he? Tennant and Tate made Dogberry a side note. So, go download it, watch it. Revel with the masters!
I have since discovered that Tennant plays Hamlet to Patrick Stewart’s Claudius. Be still my heart!