It’s Good Friday today. The weather has reflected my mood. Rain, cold, even a bout of hailstones. Even though I’m not a Christian, it remains a day that I feel incredibly sad about an event that occurred approximately 2000 years ago. I remember being a little girl being overwhelmed with confusion. Why was a day, where we remember the death of a good man, who was cruelly tortured and humiliated before being nailed to a cross – why was this day called ‘Good’ anything? Of course, years later I discovered it was named ‘Good Friday’ because Jesus was was sacrificed to atone for the sins of humankind… I still can’t make my peace with this though.
As a teacher, I always love teaching the story of Easter to children. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the story of Jesus’ life is absolutely fascinating. Here you have a good man – whether you believe he was the son of God or not, is irrelevant. He was a good man, he brought hope to people, carried out good deeds – and in the end, he was betrayed by his friend, denied by his followers, ordered to be executed whilst a murderer was set free. Tortured and killed in a prolonged, cruel manner. But he had only helped others and forgiven those who hurt him. His story endures. And children who listen to this story – they are always so incredulous- how could this happen?
There are other stories that have stayed with me in the same way.
I remember when I was in secondary school and we studied Shakespeare for the first time. Sadly, it was during my A-levels – use the word ‘sadly’ because I wish I had been exposed to his work earlier. We studied: Anthony and Cleopatra, Much Ado about Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each play could not have been more different to the other, but all brilliant stories. My favourite out of the three was undoubtedly Anthony and Cleopatra.
Prior to studying this play, all I had ever thought about Cleopatra was that she had murdered her own brother and somehow become Queen of Egypt. This play offered a different perspective. That Cleo wasn’t a scheming, power-hungry harlot who had murdered her brother and then proceeded to sleep with the generals of the Roman Empire. She was a powerful, strong woman who was a force to reckoned with. A clever strategist and a leader forging her own way in a man’s world. ‘Age could not wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.’ The most beautiful way that a woman has ever been described by any author in history.
There’s a reason why Shakespeare’s stories and work remains immortal. His stories, his characters, what they do, what they go through – transcends everything. Time. Race. Gender. Social status. Everything. The issues that he discussed and raised remain relevant to this day.
Macbeth. One of my most favourite stories in the world. Undone by his ambition and desire for power. Initially, goaded into making life-changing decisions by his wife, he then becomes a monster, scarred and changed by his actions and choices forever.
Othello – a strong, smart general who happens to be black. His success makes him a target for others. Betrayal, deceit, insecurity, racism. Still relevant in 2018.
But another story by Shakespeare, that I never studied at school, and read, because I wanted to, watched different versions of it because it is such a fascinating story is…Hamlet.
We’ve all heard the famous sound bite ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’ In this part of the story, Hamlet is considering his mortality. His father has died, his uncle had claimed the throne and married his mother. His father’s ghost has appeared to Hamlet, and explained that he was murdered by his brother. Hamlet needs to avenge his father’s death. But the consequences of this revelation are all too terrible. I often hear people jesting about Shakespeare’s tragedies. Everyone dies at the end, people laugh! Particularly, Hamlet is the butt of all these jokes. It’s true, at the end of this play, Hamlet does avenge his father’s death. He does murder his uncle. His mother does discover the truth. But at what cost? The girl that loved Hamlet, dies; her father dies, her brother dies; Hamlet’s mother dies; Hamlet’s uncle dies…and Hamlet dies.
Revenge is achieved- but at what cost? Was it worth it? What if everyone had somehow just lived with the uncomfortable truth? At least they would have been alive?
So here ends my blog today. Almost abruptly. With no real answers or conclusions. Just musings.
All I know, there are some stories that are so incredible, that they endure. They stay in people’s minds and hearts forever. I only hope that one day, I am able to write such a story. Until then, I’ll keep thinking, dreaming and reading as much as I can…