shakespeare in love

Fair warning.  {especially to all the new evolving peeps.}  This is a slightly off-beat post.  Previous Valentine writings {here and here} were sweet reflections on love.  Please click on those if you’d rather read that genre of post today.  My feelings won’t be hurt.  I promise.  No broken hearts on 2.14.

This one is, instead, has more of a 10-Things-I-Hate-About-You vibe.  Mr Willy Shakes meets goofy with a nod to deeper truths.

I took one part high school writing assignment style + actual middle school dance events = valentines 2013.

Because sometimes, you just have to step out of the box.

Our play begins in the dark of night
On an evening’s end
No more winter light.

A gathering of youth portends
Of evil thoughts and heartbroken ends.

The stage’s been set so long before
By glances and looks of hearts deplore.

So now, as our curtain is pulled aside
Feast your eyes upon young love’s tide.

Enter first Lysander, fast and brave
Noble heart and fair locks wave.

It is for Hermia his heart beats true
Always quick her mind, and fleet foot, too.
A young woman full of compassion’s ride
Witness her care for creatures- fur and hide.

The intimate two become a plural ‘us’
When met by humor’s persona Demetrius.
So beset his heart, for Hermia it is aflutter
And thus our tale tastes slightly bitter.

Two persons more do appear
Not connected, just as Orsino fears.
As for she?  We’ll wait and see
What is Olivia’s motive?  Her vision?  Her dance?
To bribe his friends or be coy on romance?

What sound is this?  What clock does chime?
This year is not 1609?

But twenty-13 me thinks, it’s true.
Time to lay aside quill and rhyming, too.

The players remain, so aptly named
Full of symbolism and in a place where privacy reigns.

{intermezzo.  Hermia has made an appearance before here.  But all the other players are new to you, sweet Valentine audience.  And so, without further ado, I present to you their tale.}

On a crisp fall night my son Cole Lysander attended his first middle school dance.  It involved nerves, excitement, and a doublet and hose pair of slacks, dress shirt and tie provided by his wise fairy grandmother.

Wait.  Autumn?  You wonder.  Last fall?  Why did I wait so long to spill the beans act as scribe?

Well, like any good Bard, Lysander took his time relating the tale.  Details slipping from his tongue in quiet moments, punctuated by long silences.

Six.  There were six slow dances that evening.  The ever-egalitarian D.J. concocted a brew of equality- a mix of girls asking and boys asking partners to dance.  Lysander and Hermia each asked each other once.  You remember the middle school slow dance, right?  That awkward pose of hands on one another’s shoulders, then shuffle-sway left, shuffle-sway right.  Mirrored repeats until the music dies, and the awkward transition back to tempo.

Ever hovering is Demetrius.  Prowling in tightening then expanding circles around the couple as they shuffle-sway, shuffle-sway.  Pacing, his agitation fully evident, even to other students.  A third slow melody begins.  Demetrius’ chance arrives.  He dances with Hermia.

Great joy!

But then he is left wondering:  why were her palms fully on Lysander’s shoulders, when only her fingertips touched mine?  He questions Lysander.  No gentle answer can be offered.  Questions circle questions of intent, reason, repercussion.

And the three other slow songs?  I asked.  Lysander did not dance.  Why?  He had exited to the outdoor theatre to attend to Orsino.  Orsino, found prostrate on a picnic table, bemoaning his fate.  For his true love Olivia had denied him a dance.  Lysander, not wanting to leave his heartbroken friend, remained by his side.

Enter an unknown courier.  A tween with a purpose, but here no name.  Messages hastily ferried back and forth as time marched steadily towards the end of the night.  Would Olivia reconsider?  Would her position soften?  A return volley.  Yes. Only…Only if another young man would dance with her fair maiden friend.

Did they dance? Memory becomes murky.

All actors reconvene upon the primary stage.  The dance floor.  And just before the bell did toll, the D.J., wise and bold, proclaimed “Give a hug.  To the one you love.”

Two stood side by side.  Yet neither body turned.  No arms embraced.  But one hand reached, as a pendulum swings, crossed the boundaries between bodies and squeezed.  The fingers of cupid’s mark.  Reflexively and with full heart the squeeze was echoed and returned.

True love, dear Bard?  Is this how it begins?  No crowns, no titles.  No princes, no kings.  Just love and hearts.  Rulers of all things.


I was intrigued by how many romantic truths were being played out on one evening, with five actors, ages 11 and 12.  On their tiny sixth grade stage were all the complex themes of love and loss that will reverberate for years to come.

Sometimes we just click with another human being, and there isn’t any explanation why.  Sometimes, the fit only happens from one side.  We’ve all been there.  {well, I know I’ve been there.  I hope I’m not alone.}  Where you pine for someone who, seemingly, has no interest in returning your affections.  How is it that one set of hormones can be off the chart in love and the second set is flatlined?

And what of the girl that said no?  And then changed her mind?  On the one hand we could easily say:  it is only a dance.  Be polite.  Why not say yes?  But on the other hand:  good for her, a young girl becoming a young woman, for standing up for herself, for her body, and saying No.  I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to be touched in that way.  By you.  Or maybe she was shy, and didn’t know quite how to handle it.  And by inviting his friend and hers she was able to mask her feelings behind the numbers.

Then there is the power of friendship.  When do we willingly step away from pursuing our own happiness to attend to the suffering of a friend?

I think my imagination was most caught in the squeezing of hands.  The D.J.’s directions were clear.  The message was strong.  And yet, these two moved their bodies not an inch.  They stayed true to themselves, and found a way to communicate the beating of their hearts without having to participate in a way that was culturally expected.

How will things change in the years ahead?  From sixth grade to age 16?  I suspect each actor will swap roles for multiple stagings of this play.  Each will become the other.  Lysander becomes Orsino morphs into Demetrius and back to Lysander.

And you, dear Valentine reader?  To whom does your heart belong?  Hopefully, no matter the other actors in your play, you live the words of the original Bard.

To thine own self be true.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Free Guide: 5 changes in 5 minutes to make parenting better, easier, right now!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Next post:

Previous post: