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Michele L. Worley
- Publié sur Amazon.com
"This is thy negligence. Still thou mistak'st,
Or else commit'st thy knaveries wilfully."
"Believe me, king of shadows, I mistook."
- Oberon and Puck, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, Act III scene 3
"'...nought shall go ill.
The man shall have his mare again,
and all shall be well.'
"And these last three lines I said out to the audience, or rather to the empty theatre where the audience would be, and they jarred me suddenly out of my happy time, my acting time. 'All shall be well.' I knew as I said it that it was a lie, Shakespeare's lie, because I knew from my own life that all does not go well, but that terrible things happen to people and cannot be put right, by magic flower-juice or by anything else in this world."
- Nat Field, who plays Puck for the Company of Boys - and the Lord Chamberlain's Men
Nat, who narrates his own story as he remembers it, brings us into his life on the first day of serious rehearsal of the Company of Boys - twenty of the best young stage actors in the United States, brought together to perform two of Shakespeare's plays as they were intended to be performed, using boys whose voices hadn't yet broken for the women's roles. After a few weeks of rehearsal (first in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then in London), they are to perform JULIUS CAESAR and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM in the Globe, newly built in 1999 yet celebrating its 400th anniversary as a replica of the original theatre where the Lord Chamberlain's Men - Shakespeare's company - spent their most famous years.
Theatre is Nat's world - the place where, for a few precious hours at a time, he can be somebody else, somebody who doesn't have to remember his parents' deaths, or answer questions, or be sympathized with - he can be Puck for an enchanted while, or the Boy in HENRY V. He expects London to be even better, in a company where with few personal connections that will be playing in another country. (Not that he's unfriendly - working with Gil Warman as Oberon helps him understand Puck better, as well as being good for laughs when the two of them are working with Rachel the voice coach. Nat's accent being naturally close to Elizabethan English is one thing, but faking a southern accent to match him is not a pretty sight. I recommend Jim Dale's unabridged narration very highly - since Nat is narrating, he sticks with Nat's accent except when speaking in another persona, and does them all very well.)
But Nat's first day of rehearsal in the Globe itself takes him far beyond what he ever hoped for, as he wakes up the next day not in 1999, but 1599, having changed places and times with another Nathan Field, an actor from St. Paul's School on loan to the Lord Chamberlain's Men to play Puck in a command performance of the Dream, though the public will not know that the Queen herself has a whim to see the new Globe in secret.
This is a beautifully crafted story. Nat's situation is built up perfectly - his character's personal pain and how he copes with it, the culture shock he experiences constantly in 1599, and the theatre and its people, then and now. The book brings Shakespeare to life in more ways than one; the book can serve as an introduction to the Dream for someone who's never seen it performed, as living history of Shakespeare's time by showing London in concrete terms rather than dry statistics, and by introducing Nat to Shakespeare the person and the other members of his company, who first brought his plays to life.
Nat's problems are also well thought out. Apart from shock at being displaced in time, the culture shock stretches further than one might think, reaching even into the small details like not sleeping on a bed or having one's own cup and plate at table, as well as the more obvious lacks of plumbing and artificial light. Nat himself is a kid, not an historian; he can pass as well as he does only because his counterpart was a sheltered educated softie by the standards of the day, on loan to a commercial theatre where he wasn't known personally. What he *does* know about Shakespeare's time is more likely to get him in trouble than to help; how many people, for example, can remember which plays he'd already written by 1599? Or what the current political troubles at court were? (The reader might even want to follow this book with A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: 1599 by James Shapiro, because Nat of course doesn't learn *all* the reasons for everything that's going on.)
But there's one compensation that makes up for all this, when Nat - still suffering from the loss of his father three years before - meets a man who lost his son three years ago.
"'Greet Master Shakespeare, boy.'
It was as if he'd said, 'Say hello to God.'"