Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The words drummed in my brain as I worked on committing Marc Antony’s speech to memory. Notecards placed around our home prompted me: “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” My fellow classmates had all chosen various passages from the works of Shakespeare, and the juniors of Fort Vancouver High School were a chanting, quoting entity until the day of recitation finally arrived.
Although we feigned disdain over this seemingly wearisome task, I believe that many of us felt like we had somehow joined a greater, larger realm of mankind when we were quoting Shakespeare. It was as though we had stepped into a timeless tradition, and we—like thousands and thousands before us—had become the students passionately uttering the tragic, “Et tu, Brute?”
Today, as I continue to pick up various favorite novels, I am convinced that this is true. Shakespeare is everywhere. Indeed, the works of classic literature in general permeate modern works, dropping quotes and phrases over which the well-read student will smile and nod knowingly.
I frequently revisit the novels of Maud Hart Lovelace and Louisa May Alcott, and as both women wrote in detail from their own childhood experiences, I always feel as though I’m stepping into a very real world. Both authors reveal how natural it was to include literary references and diversions in daily life over 100 years ago.