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The Show Must Go On

Learning more than poetry from Shakespeare.

Delving into the irony of ironies this afternoon, I logged onto my English Zoom class where we continued our reading of the play Merchant of Venice. A classmate reads for Shylock, a Jewish merchant preyed upon solely for his religion as he defends himself from Antonio, a devoted Christian who takes pleasure in tormenting him. As Shylock betrays his temper in retaliation, I do too. I am just frustrated, but the concept applies the same. Shylock and I erupt in grief and anger.

In each of our epidemics, for Shylock, change, and for I, the coronavirus, we find ourselves unable to tame our emotions. But we need to perform regardless. The show must always go on. Although the drive to fulfill them is missing, the expectations remain. Thus, the question regarding how begs an answer. How am I to keep up with the work, my grades and sanity in an era of such drastic change? Had you asked me three months ago I couldn’t have fathomed where I would be today, let alone how incredulously unproductive and anxious I became as a result. And surprisingly, had you asked John and Mary, a couple from a small town in rural England nearly 500 years ago, in 1564 when the Bubonic Plague ravished the countryside, you wouldn’t have received a radically different response. 

John and Mary feared for their children’s lives, and I fear for the well-being of my more vulnerable relatives. John and Mary locked their doors and windows, allowing no one to come in or out until the epidemic subsided. Although I personally have not been quarantined, I practice social distancing. Eventually, the plague subsided long enough for the world to learn John and Mary’s surname and their child who survived the plague—Shakespeare. 

Throughout William Shakespeare’s life, the Bubonic Plague continued to pose a professional and existential threat. Theatres were closed, much like our public spaces today, and Shakespeare was forced to explore new outlets for his creativity. As the number of unparalleled plays and poems will tell you, Shakespeare was productive, and contrary to popular belief, we can be as well. So, at a time when everything seems up in the air, it’s good to know that some things will stay the same. And thus, I leaned back on my couch and proceeded to read Act III Scene II, with an entirely new perspective.

Air Jordan

Ora Gutfreund is a sophomore at Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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