Spend the weekend with the Bard

“Either Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare,” the professor intoned, “or somebody else named Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.”

The declaration – itself rather worthy of the Elizabethan stage, in its gusto and tenor – put the stamp of pedagogical dismissal to discussions then-current in some literary circles, questioning the authenticity of the Bard of Avon’s remarkable body of achievement. The professor’s enthusiasm also served to enrapture a class of motley undergraduates – this editor amongst them – assembled for one of several survey courses at a mid-sized university. And that was before we’d begun our first explication of the first sublime lines of a sonnet or play. The memories burn bright – and not just because, as the writer observed, “praising what is lost makes the remembrance dear.”

Many readers no doubt have had the pleasure of a college-level Shakespeare course; others may simply find themselves muttering “Out, damned spot!” over troublesome laundry, wholly unaware of how the phrase made its way into their consciousness. For both, allow us to recommend attending at least one presentation in the Arts and Humanities Council’s current inquiry, “The Bard on Bainbridge.” A preview of the series – including a photograph of organizer Kathleen Thorne dressed as Lady Macbeth, sans knife – appeared in these pages a few issues back, and can still be found on the Review’s website. A complete schedule is online at www.artshum.org.

The inquiry boasts a particularly robust fare this weekend, which promises inclement weather and a good excuse to take in some culture. Early Saturday risers can enjoy a screening of “Henry V” this morning at 10 a.m. at Bainbridge Cinemas. The 1989 adaptation features Kenneth Branagh, who has appeared, it seems, in pretty much every corner of the Shakespearean oeuvre. Island Theatre offers a free play-reading at 7:30 p.m. this evening at the Bainbridge library; “A Night in the Theatre” sets garrulous couples to a backdrop of “Hamlet.”

Steven Marx discusses “The Political Shakespeare” at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Bainbridge library, discussing the Bard’s take on leadership and war. A steadfast bastion of verse, San Carlos hosts its 21st annual poetry reading from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. “Kiss Me, Kate,” adapted by the inimitable Cole Porter from “The Taming of the Shrew,” closes out its run at the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse over the weekend. And finally, Lynwood Theatre screens a contemporary adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” with Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Ralph Fiennes through March 24.

So acute was Shakespeare’s sense of the human condition, his observations can be readily grafted onto the events of any age. And he had a touch with the English language that hasn’t really been matched since. Yet his real genius may have been his ability to knit all three brows – high, low and middle – and be so accessible to folks of every station.

The Bard’s on Bainbridge. Hie thee hence!

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