Complete Works William Shakespeare ; Book of a Lifetime
Rush, Christopher, The Independent (London, England)
In 1954, when I was 10, a 12-inch black-and-white television set was wheeled in all its majesty into our living-room, and normal life promptly ceased. Five years later there occurred what was for me another revolution. Olivier's film of Hamlet appeared on the little box and by pure chance I happened to see it. I was on the point of being chucked out of school and was getting ready to go to sea. It never happened. From that point on the sea was no mere sea - it was "a sea of troubles". Life was now filtered through art, Shakespeare's art. I asked my mother to buy me the Complete Works and she did so, at the considerable cost to her of 16 shillings. It was the Oxford Shakespeare. I read it through from The Tempest on page one to the last word in the glossary - five times during a repeated Fourth Form year. Hamlet I read more than 50 times. My teachers thought I'd gone mad but were pleased to feed the intoxicating flames. I had found my muse of fire. I went on to become a teacher, a writer, and I would not be writing this article now but for Shakespeare.
Does that sound banal? In the time of the American Civil War a soldier rose from his auditorium seat during the "fit" scene in Othello and fired his pistol at the actor playing Iago, shooting him dead. He was executed, buried in the same grave as his innocent- evil victim (only in America! …