Shakespeare and me

KJ, who writes an interesting blog on Shakespeare in film (and popular culture - at least there was a very funny cartoon there today) has asked me about Shakespeare's influences on my writing.

A rather challenging question, which exposes my fears of not having a great theoretical literary background - my degree is in applied Science (Occupational Therapy.) Moving schools frequently also meant that I studied The Merchant of Venice in Grades 8, 9 and 10, which of course limited the number of other plays!

And yet, somehow, I'm familiar with most of the plays as well as the poetry. I was the type of kid who lay on the couch reading my way through a dense volume of English poetry - I can still picture the book, and the feel of it, so heavy it had to be propped up at the end of the couch. Later, in high school, I remember one of my English teachers, in encouraging me to strengthen my sense of rhythm in my poetry, telling me to read Shakespeare, and other poets, aloud, which is some of the best advice I've ever received. (I read all my own work aloud now too, to hear the faults in its rhythm.)

One of my earliest memories is of seeing a film of the ballet of Romeo and Juliet, at the Russian pavilion at the Brussel's World Fair, when I was three. I fell in love with the story, and with the play when I was old enough to read it.

So my point in these reminiscences is that although I've never been consciously aware of being influenced by Shakespeare when I'm writing, Shakespeare's work is so much part of my love of literature that it must have influenced what I do. And then, when I was writing Nim's Island, I did briefly consider naming the marine iguana Caliban - marine iguanas really are very ugly - before deciding that Fred was much more suitable for this particular one.