Whose words are they, anyway?

This morning I had the opportunity to have a session online with my co-actor in Phoenix, without our director.  When the cat’s away, the mice will play? You might think so!  In this case, we used the time to share some thoughts on the ‘back-stories’ of our characters: who might have done what to whom and why.

Then we went through the script, picking out the Shakespeare quotes, and wondering why our characters might have chosen to use those words at that particular moment. Is it because they like the quote for its own sake?  Or have the words some personal meaning for them? We talked about that thing that happens to some actors who are very good at remembering lines – and I used to be one of them – where they can converse in nothing but quotes from plays for hours on end.  I was reminded of a time when I was very much younger, when it seemed to me that I had nothing to say for myself, because I was always quoting someone else. It was, indeed, quite scary.

Finally, we wondered if there was anything different going on when we choose to quote from Shakespeare, as against a contemporary playwright. I decided the difference was that, for me, Shakespeare says what I want to say, but in way fewer words. He is much more concise, and his imagery packs the kind of punch that approximates to the depth of feeling I need to express.

I just love it.

How about you?  Would you choose to use Shakespeare’s words to express some deeply felt experience, or idea?