As a grace note to the exercise below, we were asked to write a paragraph on a piece of work that had moved and dazzled us. Mine is predictable but I don't care!
I was looking at the many books that line my shelves (carefully alphabetised, of course) and had pretty much decided to write about either Crime and Punishment or Jackie Kay’s Trumpet. Or A.L. Kennedy’s Paradise. But the truth is, the only thing I could really write about here is Shakespeare. I don’t honestly remember falling in love with his plays. Sometimes it feels like I came out of the womb knowing about iambic pentameter and five-act structure. I did my sixth-year dissertation on Shakespeare. And my degree dissertation. And my masters degree. It’s fair to say he’s my favourite writer. And of his plays, whilst I think Hamlet is his best tragedy, Twelfth Night his best comedy (don’t make me choose between them), it’s probably Romeo and Juliet that I love the most. I love it for the way it asks us to believe in the power of young love at first sight and doesn’t give a monkey’s about believability. And for its deft shift from comedy to tragedy. Its cruelty. Its turn on fate and chance rather than hubris. Its gorgeous language (especially that last couplet). Its strong female characters. Its pace and rhythm. Its complex use of light and dark imagery (night is good, day is bad but Romeo and Juliet lovingly describe each other in terms of light). Its filthy jokes. It is archetypal, definitive and iconic and it continues to stun me every time I read it.