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Talking Shakespeare

Notes from a Journey


Louis Fantasia

Talking Shakespeare is a collection of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and politics and their impact in the world today. Originally given as provocative talks on Shakespeare at some of the most prestigious universities, conferences, and theatres around the world, they reflect on the author’s more than thirty-year career as a producer, director and educator. The essays provide a unique and personal look into multiple aspects of Shakespeare’s world—and ours.


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Epilogue: Variations on a Theme of Identity


EPILOGUE Variations on a Theme of Identity (Speech Day Address to graduating students of the Cranleigh School in Surrey, England, 2005) High Sheriff, Chairman, Headmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen: In P.G. Wodehouse’s 1934 novel, Right Ho, Jeeves!, a character is asked to give out prizes at his local school. He hesitates in accepting this honor for fear that he might, as he says, “split his trousers” while passing out the awards. Ultimately, though, he relents. “Better men than I,” he reasons, “have split their trousers on such occasions.”1 Well, I’m sure that better men than I have split their trousers giving Speech Day addresses, too. But I shall do my best to get through this without embarrassing myself too badly, because I am truly honored to have been asked to talk to you today. Headmaster Guy Waller has asked me to speak on the topic of identity. It’s a big theme in today’s world: how we see ourselves, how we define our- selves. It’s a word we throw around a lot now: identity cards, identity theft, national identity, and so on. Everything from the cars we drive and foods we eat, to the ringtones on our mobile phones and screensavers on our iPads, is supposedly indicative of our identity, of who we are. But is it? Webster’s Dictionary (granted, an American dictionary) defines identity as, first, “the sameness of character in different circumstances,” and second as the “distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” So, if Mr. Webster Epilogue 124...

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