Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Shakespeare Can Change Your Life

~excerpts borrowed from Docent and Teacher Amy Thompson at thirdwitchfirstmurderer.wordpress.com.

This past weekend, a young couple, Colin and Stephanie, came to the Folger for a tour (which Amy gave), after having performed in the Secondary Festival many times together when they were in high school.

Since it was a beautiful day in Washington, DC, I decided to begin the tour outside in the Elizabethan Garden. I am not a particularly adept gardener, so we breezed through the horticulture quickly and headed to the statues by Greg Wyatt. The first one we came to depicts Shakespeare’s play The TempestMr. Wyatt’s sculptures are somewhat abstract, and his interpretations of Shakespeare usually require some decoding. But that didn’t matter much to my group; The Tempest to them is the play where Colin played Ferdinand and Stephanie played Miranda, as they told me. “Ah, the young lovers,” I said.

We examined the friezes on the front façade of the building and I learned that Colin is not a big fan of Macbeth, but Steph would love to be a witch, which just goes to show what a clear-headed girl she is. They have never done Hamlet and Ophelia, but yes, he was her Romeo and she was his Juliet.

As we continued the tour inside the building, a librarian from Memphis joined us. We looked at the stained glass in the Founders’ Room, the current exhibit on “Shakespeare’s Sisters,” the permanent display of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and ended up in the Elizabethan Theatre for a few final words about Shakespeare’s plays. I then invited them to take photos in the theatre if they liked, or follow me out to the lobby for questions. The librarian and I went to the lobby and watched what happened next from the doorway, along with two of the Folger guards.

Colin took Steph up onto the stage so his parents could take their picture. Afterward, he turned to her and let her know, in a few short sentences, how much she meant to him. Then he knelt, pulled out a ring, and asked her to marry him.

She said yes.

The crowd of friends and relatives who had been hidden in the dark balcony broke into applause, and came downstairs to celebrate with the happy couple. I was a little choked up; the librarian from Memphis was absolutely in tears. As far as I know it is the first time that someone has proposed on that stage when it wasn’t part of a script.

Did Shakespeare bring the two of them together, or would they have found each other regardless? When Steph, as Juliet, looked deeply into Colin’s eyes and said “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite,” did it speed things along? What would have happened if Colin had played Trinculo and Mercutio instead of Ferdinand and Romeo?

I don’t pretend to know. I do know that Colin and Steph are in love with Shakespeare and each other.

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