By William Ysaguirre
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages”.
The quote is from William Shakespeare’s comedy, “As You Like It”, and Governor General Sir Colville Young discussed the relevance of Shakespeare’s tragedies for Belizeans at the University of Belize during the second annual Sylvana Udz Lekcha series at the UB Jaguar Auditorium in Belmopan on Tuesday, September 1.
A career educator and writer knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of England for his contributions to Belizean culture, Governor General Young admitted to his young listeners that he was still teaching, right there on the stage of the auditorium!
He noted how Shakespeare’s popularity surpassed his critics of his da, even though he was belittled by his peers as being unschooled, lacking Latin and knowing very little Greek.
He was also often accused of plagiarism by other writers of his day, but his popularity has by far outlived by centuries, the critics of his day.
Young reviewed Sophocles’ tragedies, in particular Oedipus, and how the theme of Oedipus’ tragedy gave rise millennia later to Sigmund Freud’s theory about the ‘Oedipal complex’, that sons are secretly in love with their mothers, and that the converse is also true: daughters are secretly in love with their fathers.
He also reviewed how Aesop taught his listeners many of life’s lessons through his fables, some of which resemble Belizean Brer Anansi stories.
Shakespeare may have borrowed from and rewritten the works of Greek tragedists, but he was a man of the people and his time, and he made his dramas accessible and understandable for the unlettered masses, with real life themes that working class people could relate to.
Murder, incest, love, jealousy, revenge killings: these are issues Belizean law enforcement and social services are dealing with on a daily basis, even today. Yet they were the stuff of Shakespeare’s plays written over 400 years ago. For “Life imitates art more than art imitates life”.
Oscar Wilde’s argument may seem all too real for recent shooting victims’ families and friends, who may feel they are living a Shakespearian tragedy.
Sir Colville was just keeping it real and relevant; and he may have borrowed from the poet William Wordsworth when he challenged his young listeners to “write from your heart”. The students asked him about writing about life in Belize and the Belizean experience; and he cited his advancing years as he begged off from writing and publishing any new works. Instead he graciously passed the pen to the aspiring young writers sitting in the audience.
The UB Faculty of Education and Arts is hosting the lecture series in the hope of inspiring some of the students to pursue a life of letters and critical reflection, through contact with noteworthy authors, poets and other intellectuals from Belize and abroad.
In this regard Sir Colville came eminently qualified; having published his first collection of short stories in “Pataki Full” and more Belizean folk wisdom in “Creole Proverbs of Belize”.
The audience included many members of the UB faculty as well as United States Ambassador, H.E. Carlos Moreno, and the Venezuelan Ambassador, H.E. Yoel Perez Marcano.