The other evening, my wife, Jacquie, and I went to see Shakespeare’s Othello at the Shakespeare Theatre here in D.C. It was simply . . . spectacular. Kenneth Branagh is one of my favorite Shakespearean authors. His Hamlet is one of the best performances and movies of all time and his role of Iago in Othello is nearly as brilliant. However, I was pleasantly surprised the other evening by the depth and power of Patrick Page’s performance. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be caught up by anyone else’s portrayal of Iago (after Branagh), but I was. Page was spectacular. Within a few moments I was so caught up with his portrayal of Iago, I left behind my comparing mind and simply enjoyed the performance. It really was a spectacular performance of a spectacular play by a spectacular playwright named William Shakespeare.
As I was sitting in the audience I kept thinking about what makes Shakespeare so spectacular. And one of my conclusions, and there are many, is that he refused to be pedestrian (ordinary) in his use of language. In a play about a whole range of issues from racism to love, from love forbidden to love acquired, from family dysfunction to family betrayal, from deception to integrity, from power to powerlessness, etc. (in other words, it’s not just a play about jealousy) what sets Shakespeare apart is that he infuses his characters with language that refuses to be common.
For example, instead of saying, "Jealousy is a bad for you," he says, "Beware my lord of jealousy, it is a green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds upon." Or instead of saying that Desdemona listened intently to Othello’s retelling of his story, he writes,
And often did beguile her of her tears,
When I did speak of some distressful stroke
That my youth suffer’d. My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore,–in faith, ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange;
‘Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful:
She wish’d she had not heard it, yet she wish’d
That heaven had made her such a man: she thank’d me;
And bade me, if I had a friend that lov’d her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story,
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:
She lov’d me for the dangers I had pass’d;
And I lov’d her that she did pity them.
Like I said, Shakespeare was anything but pedestrian in his choice of words, he was simply . . . spectacular at what he did—which is why four hundred years later we still read his plays and are moved by them.
So, what does this have to do with you and me? Everything. When Shakespeare wrote, for example, Romeo and Juliet, he was far from famous. He was an actor making ends meet as best he could. But because he refused to be ordinary in what he was doing at the time, he became famous and four hundred years later we’re still reading what he wrote.
So my question for you (and for me) is, how can you take what you’re currently doing and make it spectacular? How can you turn it from ordinary to extraordinary? It doesn’t have to be a book or play that you’re working on, it could be a making a meal or designing a room. It could be coaching a sports team or preparing a lesson for a Sunday School class. It could be putting together a party or designing an accounting package. It could be developing a sales team theme for the year or planning a karate tournament. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it’s a mindset that I’m after—a mindset that says, "I don’t want to go through life doing ordinary things in ordinary ways, I want to leave whatever I’m doing with a touch of the spectacular." If you’ll do that, you’ll have a lived a life worth living.
So, what can you do today in a spectacular way?