I am off to America in three weeks – which I am really looking forward to, but which may put a bit of a crimp in my Shakespeare obsession.
Going to the plays for inspiration is NOT helpful as Shakespeare doesn’t mention the place very often – there are few references to the Indies (a term which used to mean most of what we would now call the Americas – including the Caribbean island where the name stuck for longer). My favourite is in the Merry Wives of Windsor, as Falstaff plans his liaisons with two women: they shall be my East and West Indies, and I will trade to them both.
The only reference to America specifically is in A Comedy Of Errors – where Dromio is likening a woman to a globe:
ANTIPHOLUS OF SYRACUSE. Where America, the Indies?
DROMIO OF SYRACUSE. O, sir, upon her nose, an o’er embellished with rubies, carbuncles, sapphires, declining their rich aspect to the hot breath of Spain; who sent whole armadoes of caracks to be ballast at her nose
Still, I was heartened to discover that both Washington and Chicago (the two places to which I am travelling) have specific Shakespeare venues – the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Chicago Shakespeare Theater respectively. Brilliant, I thought. A bit of multi-tasking. Holiday AND Shakespeare in a single tidy fashion. Alas no – the former is showing Man of La Mancha when I am there, the latter Sense and Sensibility, neither of which are even vaguely Shakespearean. This is almost annoying as the continued insistence of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in putting on Jacobean tragedy, instead of a nice bit of Cymbeline (sample stage direction: JUPITER descends-in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle. He throws a thunderbolt. Don’t try telling me they managed that in the Globe…).
On the other hand, it gives me more time to visit the Folger Library , which as the owner of 81 First Folios is clearly a must-stop destination for all Shakespeare enthusiasts. I may not be able to see anything specific – I doubt “I really, really like Shakespeare” is sufficient reason to get a crack at their collection – but the building itself, and the gardens, look like a wonderful temple to Shakespeare’s plays.
I’ll let you know what I think – and if anyone knows of any Shakespeare in Washington or Chicago I have missed, please please let me know!