Weekly Writing Challenge: Style

“The Bard and I”

Shakespeare influenced my writing the most.  In graduate school, I stood in front of my poetry class and spoke Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech and wished I, as a woman, looked more like the Danish prince.  The next summer, I went to Cambridge University in England to study Shakespeare’s comic and tragic plays (I always liked the tragedies better).  I’ll never forget watching a local live production of “Othello” at a manor house that had stood when Shakespeare walked in England.  I hope the Bard’s amazing use of meter and rhyme found its way into the poetry of my Master’s thesis.  I know it found its way into my prose.  I love to mix poetry into my novels.  Here is an example from my new book “Fire and Ice”:


My daughter Jessica dressed as an English princess

I fell in love with England.  I fell in love with the people who took themselves so seriously and loved to wear uniforms.  I let a policeman (bobby) kiss me; he wore a domed black hat with silver badge and a jacket tailored like Sherlock Holmes’.  I met him in a pub by the river, when my English hostess babysat my children so I could have a night out.  He carried a billy club upon his belt but had no handgun.  He held me in his arms beside the river, and I felt sheltered for a moment, far from home, a woman who had not been embraced for months.  I felt the rough texture of his jacket’s tweed, the bristle of his beard.  I smelled the ale upon his breath, heard the call of a night bird across the water, tasted my own salty tears . . .  He wanted to do more than kiss me, but I said no, I had gone too far already while my pilot husband risked his life somewhere in the vast Pacific.

I fell in love with that English language, so different from the American version I had learned, laced with music in the lilting tones and words like porridge and dandelion.  I watched Othello performed by a local troupe, outside a manor house that stood when Shakespeare lived.  The tragic tale of love so strong it killed, spoken in poetry that I had flown far to hear, echoed in the last words of the innocent wife he strangled out of jealousy:

“That death’s unnatural that kills for loving. 

Alas, why gnaw you so your nether lip? 

Some bloody passion shakes your very frame: 

These are portents; but yet I hope, I hope, 

They do not point on me.”

And then, after Othello strangled Desdemona and realized she had never been unfaithful to him, just before he stabbed himself with his own sword, he lamented:

“ . . . then must you speak 

Of one that loved not wisely but too well; 

Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought 

Perplex’d in the extreme; of one whose hand, 

Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away 

Richer than all his tribe; of one whose subdued eyes, 

Albeit unused to the melting mood, 

Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees 

Their medicinal gum . . .”

Oh, I did not realize at the time how much my life would parallel Othello’s.  I only smiled at lovely words, their tragedy escaping me as I gathered the hands of my children and whisked them away on the train to Yorkshire.


Read the rest of my story here:




2 comments on “Weekly Writing Challenge: Style

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