Saturday 23 April 2016

Shakespeare & my sister. Life lessons from two people I've learned to listen to.

Alas. Poor William, I knew him Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

 [OK, OK, so, I didn’t know him. But then again, you’re not Horatio are you? So stop pretending you are. Look we’ve both been caught out now, so let’s move on ... ]

 It’s 400 years today since Shakespeare died.

Well today-ish as no one really knows the exact date.

[I guess no one put a death notice in the Evening Gazette about him; meaning all the Jacobean Grandmas probably didn’t go around asking everyone to 'guess who died'. “You know who I mean . Oh you do. Nice lad, liked making up stories. John and Mary’s son. The one with the earring …”.]

 Anyway … I couldn’t let the occasion pass without saying something Shakespearean here. And, regular readers will undoubtedly be able to guess which 9 words I’m going to start with. Ready ... OK all together on 3, 2, 1 go …

When I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet … [you guessed correctly didn’t you? Thought so.]

Yeah, so, when I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet, well it was before I went actually, my sister took on the mantle of offering me some sage advice which she was particularly well placed to give.

  • Not only had she visited London in general more often than I had, like me, she’d done so to see one of her favourite actors, this time David Tennant, play Hamlet.
  • And … she’d followed that up by seeing another of her chosen ones – Tom Hiddleston – play Coriolanus. [So she’s one up on me. Not that I’m counting.] 
So, as a dutiful little sister who knows her place I not only listened to her advice, I heeded it. [And yes – as I can be relied upon to do – I also wrote it all down and made a note to blog it sometime].

So here it is alongside other famous advice-related Hamlet quotes namely from Act1 Scene 3 where Polonius doles out his fatherly wisdom to Laertes. Feel free to compare and contrast at your leisure:

No. 1: 
Advice from Polonius to Laertes: 
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; 
For the apparel oft proclaims the man. 

Jo’s sisterly advice to me: 
"Wear your walking shoes. You might think you want to wear something nicer but you’ll be so glad if you just wear the comfy ones.” 

I wore the comfy ones.

[Except when I went to the theatre when I wore wedges. And got a blister. Don’t tell her that part.]

No. 2: 
Advice from Polonius to Laertes: "Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar."

Jo’s sisterly advice to me: “Wear perfume”. 

Now, this wasn’t exactly direct advice that I was meant to follow to the letter. It was more like a random thought she had while casting her mind back – fondly [perhaps too fondly] - to her last theatre trip. As she put it: “I wore perfume when I went to see Tom. I mean, Corialanus.” 

Jo and ‘Tom’ sitting in a tree ...

No. 3: 
Advice from Polonius to Laertes: 
Neither a borrower nor a lender be; 
For loan oft loses both itself and friend, 
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 

Jo’s sisterly advice to me: “Buy a programme.” 

 I did.

No. 4: 
Advice from Polonius to Laertes: "This above all- to thine own self be true." 

I know right? That’s from Hamlet. Another of the dozens of phrases from that play that we still rely on to funnel life’s clamouring mess into a single meaningful phrase.

And with that in mind … I share with you my sister's final - and perhaps most profound - piece of Hamlettean advice in the hope that one day it too becomes legendary.

Jo’s sisterly advice to me regarding pre-theatre consumption: “Eat something. Line your stomach. You don’t want to be sick on Benny.” 

 I did. And I wasn’t.

[Which is just as well really as – considering how hard they clamped down on people taking photos of the performance - I can only imagine what their response would have been to someone vomiting on the leading man from the front seat of the upper circle.]
The 115 year old edition of the play that Jo gave me for my birthday this year. 
What need I worry in this world when I can always turn to Will and Jo for guidance?

Julie x


  1. Sage advice and a great post. Love the programme and your copy of hamlet

  2. Sage advice and a great post. Love the programme and your copy of hamlet

  3. We elder sisters are indeed blessed with great wisdom. That, and in some cases (cough *mine* cough), insufferable smugness. Happy Shakespeare's death-day to you both! xxx

  4. Haha, yep, I guessed the "When I saw Benedict ..." part! Fun post; sometimes it would appear that big sisters might actually know best. But only sometimes.

  5. Most enjoyable - and original - read :). I am sure Shakespeare would be tickled pink that his advice is still of practical use centuries later. Your big sister clearly doesn't fit The Taming of The Shrew profile, then ...
    "Her elder sister is so curst and shrewd
    That, till the father rid his hands of her,
    Master, your love must live a maid at home;"

  6. How could you not use the 'When I saw Benedict ...' phrase when doing a post on Shakespeare? (Or Billy Waggle-dagger as one of my old English teachers irreverently called him). I'm a younger sister so I feel your pain in having to acknowledge that there are times when their advice is spot on.

  7. Fun to read and beautiful pictures to look at: what's not to love about this post?

  8. ps: Shakespeare quote I heard most round here yesterday..."Tho she be but little, she is fierce". Care to share?

  9. For me, the best post you've written to date. So clever. Enjoyed it so much I've read it several times! (Thank you!)


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