Took a London trip yesterday. It was fabulous! I jetted in via bus (coach, as they say here) to go to an exhibit at the British Library and see a performance of Hamlet at the National Theatre.
Let me tell you, I was completely unprepared for the life-changing experiences I was to have by simply walking around an exhibit full of really old books.
In fact, why don't I quickly list the seminal texts of the Western literary canon upon which I was privileged to lay eyes yesterday, and I'll let you decide for yourself if you feel like freaking out with me or not:
- First up, one of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. Not too big of a deal, just one of the main sources of Anglo-Saxon information surviving with us today.
- The original text of Beowulf. There. In all its glory. If this doesn't make you freak the heck out, I don't think anything else in this list will, so maybe you should cease reading.
- A manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
- The King James' Bible. THE King James' Bible.
- William Tyndale's English translation of the Book of St. Matthew, which is significant for me since he attended Hertford, you know, like, four hundred years ago or whatever.
- Samuel Johnson's Dictionary.
- The. Handwritten. Manuscript. Of Jane Austen's Persuasion. Handwritten by Jane Austen. In case you didn't intuitively grasp that at first.
- The manuscript of Finnegans Wake.
- Mozart's wedding contract.
- Charlotte Bronte's manuscript of Jane Eyre.
- The earliest draft of Handel's Messiah.
- Parts of Da Vinci's manuscript notebook.
- The Book of Hours.
- One of the Gutenberg Bibles.
- The Lindisfarne Gospels.
- And last, but by no means least, and sequestered in its own room complete with timelines and graphics and general splendor: the freaking Magna Carta. I saw. The Magna Carta. I saw one of the original copies of the only thing closest to a British constitution, written in the thirteenth century. I saw it. I SAW it.
I mean, it's pretty unassuming. There weren't angels flying out of the page or heavenly lights shining on it, but……..still. I gazed upon it, and many other important works of literary greatness in the span of about an hour and a half and in one place, which was enough to leave me giddy and reeling for the rest of the day.
That is, until I went to see Hamlet.
Which, notably, was located some ways away from the library, so I booked it back to the Tube, since I needed to take it south a few stops and then physically cross the Thames via footbridge.
Which can take a while, in case you were wondering. And the performance was in one hour.
By the way, I gave someone correct Tube directions! This made me so happy. But moving on.
The sun was starting to go down, and the South Bank was all lit up. There was a little cutesy Christmas village selling cutesy Christmas things that was heart-warming to walk by, except I was on a mission to the theatre, so I didn't stop to get my cheer on. I made it just in time, as the doors were opening to the Olivier Theatre to let attendees in to their seats.
Well, let me tell you, seeing a Shakespeare play is much different than reading it. Seeing Hamlet plot and go mad is much different than skimming over "To be or not to be." This production was set in a modern totalitarian society, but retained the original Jacobean script. I actually ended up enjoying it. And Rory Kinnear, who played the prince himself, was utterly convincing, if not a little too schizophrenic for my taste. In my opinion, the supporting cast was the real gem of the performance, but I'm sounding like a theatre reviewer, which I am not. All in all, it was incredible, doubly so since I am reading the play for my last Shakespearian Tragedy tutorial. One more thing I will say: I laughed at all the jokes. I feel like if a modern cast can make Shakespeare so accessible as to have the whole audience roaring at multiple points, it's got to be good.
Anyway, after a very fulfilling day for this English major, and after a minor panic attack during which I couldn't find my bus stop to catch the coach back to Oxford, I made it to my room in one piece. More to fill you in on later.
One more thing: I will be home in 13 days! Crazy!