Have you noticed, as I have, that there has been a good deal of content focusing on the benefits of getting up early? There are podcasts, posts and articles everywhere extoling the benefits of getting up early. I came across podcast on Linked In called The Six Morning Habits of High Performers, by Pete Mockaitis. Not to brag or boast while I sip my coffee over my morning toast, but I’ve been doing my own, very similar morning regimen for several years now. I’m not talking about just getting ready for the day. I have been getting up early as a means of setting my mind and intentions in the direction I feel is best for me. I like to say the morning is the best time to do this because the rest of the world is not awake to distract me with their intentions for my mind.
My morning routine usually includes a few minutes reading a wisdom book, journaling, a few yoga asanas, then some time writing for the books or the blog. All this in done in and around several mugs of coffee. It’s duration is dependent on work start time and day of the week. For me, the morning thing people are preaching to the choir.
My wisdom reading, my reading for my clear, respective and energized morning mind, most recently has been a Shakespeare sonnet. Even on weekends when I have more time, I read just one sonnet every morning. It is about all of that iambic pentameter I can take. But I found it to be as good a mind exercise as reading a bit of the Bagdavida, or page or two of Dear Theo, both of which I have recently used in my morning routine. Yet, I have never been called to read much Shakespeare and it isn’t something one normally does voluntarily. I am of the age that it is a recommended that I get a colonoscopy. I did that. Now comes reading Shakespeare. Both are highly recommended but do you really want to do either?
As I said, I never did. However, I finally had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. So, late last spring, I read the old paperback copy of Hamlet that had been around the house forever. Later that summer I read Oscar Wilde’s essay on Shakespeare’s sonnets. The lengthy Wilde essay was less a discussion of the sonnets themselves but more his learned opinion on whether the sonnets were written to a particular person, of which there is much academic debate, of a particular gender, of which, in those days, there were only two. Reading those led me to find old Riverside Shakespeare that had also seen sitting around the house forever.
For my current morning routine, I first read the original sonnet several times. Next I write a guess as to what it’s about in my journal. Then I read a modern English interpretation. The process is completed when I watch and listen to Patrick Stewart read that sonnet with my eyes going back to the original. It is a good way to create the open mind and intentional thought you want in your head to start they day. To me, that is the greatest benefit of my early morning routine.
As for Shakespeare as a whole, I’m not saying there’s not wonderful language and imagery in Shakespeare. In fact, to even begin to get into all of it is simply too much for my mind on this particular morning. I know my limits, as demonstrated by my one sonnet a morning practice. I only have time, space and intent enough in this post to recommend coming at Shakespeare not when it is not forced on you. Sure, I did voluntarily read both Hamlet and Oscar Wilde’s essay on the Sonnets last summer but avoided Shakespeare during my years of formal education. However, for the purpose of this post I also recommend coming at Shakespeare via Ben Elton’s series on BritBox called Upstart Crow.
Ben Elton wrote or helped write some of my all time favorite British Comedies such as The Young Ones and Blackadder. Upstart Crow is indeed funny. The episode where Shakespeare attempts to explain the plot of Hamlet to the actors who laugh at each machination thinking the play is a comedy, was cathartic for me and perhaps for anyone who has been told how great a tragedy Hamlet is. And, it still may be a great stage play- I haven’t seen it. But when I was reading it, I kept thinking that Hamlet and his screwed up family would have made good guests on an episode of Jerry Springer. It was already clear that with them in charge that Denmark was never going to achieve superpower status in the coming centuries.
I think a secondary reason I enjoyed the show was that it often portrays William Shakespeare, as a man with a wife, kids, a commute to and from Stratford and day to day worries. One would have no trouble reading hundreds of academic volumes about written about Shakespeare’s life. But for me, Ben Elton’s presentation of Shakespeare as an ordinary guy made his works way more accessible, approachable and appealing. And more than all the academia, classes, and textbooks combined, persuaded me to finally open that 1926 page Riverside Shakespeare to read a sonnet every morning. Sure, Shakespeare may be the greatest writer in the English language but he still was just a guy in puffling pants trying to get through his day, starting with what must have been a hell of a morning routine all his own.