Why Shakespeare is … Brazilian

Renato Rocha – Guardian, 04/23/2012

In Brazil we grew up hearing wise phrases: “Love is blind“, and “There are more things in heaven and earth …” A little older, in school, one of the first names we heard was Shakespeare – the English bard, one of the great geniuses of world literature, maybe the greatest. Suddenly we realised that many of the wise phrases we know were in fact Shakespeare’s.

I started working in theatre at the age of 13 with a group of young artists who wanted to change the world. We used to do theatre in open spaces. There were 30 artists, including actors, musicians, and dancers; sometimes horses too … We performed classics including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet.Nick Bottom was my first Shakespeare character. I became obsessed with the idea of performing this great writer and his enchanting stories.

There is a challenge here, though. Having performed several of Shakespeare’s works, I am increasingly puzzled about how an artist such as Shakespeare was able to connect with our time. I’m always saying to actors we should keep our eye on the present. How did Shakespeare – looking at the world around him, his society, and without judgment or preconception – manage to connect with it, seemingly so effortlessly? Perhaps it’s because Shakespeare looked deep within the soul of man and discovered the many facets of being human. He talked about nature, religion, science, astronomy, the supernatural. He released into the air powerful words that floated into space and which crash-land into the audience’s imagination.

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