This morning I read the third Scene of Act IV of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Though this is my first time reading the entire play, I memorized this one scene more than thirty years ago when our Community Players Association performed it. Reading it again after all these years brought back a flood of memories.
I played the Clown. Unlike many clowns in Shakespeare, this one is completely clueless. He gets fooled by the rogue Autolycus, who picks his pocket.
I don’t know why the Association chose this particular scene to perform, while leaving the rest of the play unexplored. Autolycus was played by a member of the faculty of Chatham Hall, a private prep school for girls located in the same town as our theater. So when this school hosted its Elizabethan Festival, my friend Autolycus booked our act as part of the festivities.
I had never visited Chatham Hall before. I was eighteen years old, and not a bad looking guy – and the raging hormones of high school girls who had been kept from contact with all males except their professors certainly operated to better effect than beer goggles or other aphrodisiacs. For the first time in my life, I understood how cheapening it feels to be the subject of wolf whistles and suggestive comments from the opposite sex. Not that I complained.
After our scene was over, it didn’t take long to hook up with one of the spectators to create a little scene of our own. I was still in costume (as the fool), and apparently still in character as well. Her blue-green eyes held my attention much better than Autolycus’ act – while she stole my heart.
I had a car, and she got me to promise to give her a ride to her father’s house for the weekend. He lived in a little chalet in the hills north of Charlottesville, a good two hour drive. In consideration for my trouble, I was invited to stay the weekend — and to share her room. I found this arrangement so agreeable that I gladly repeated it on three additional weekends.
Continuing my role as the fool, I proposed. She accepted. I was in heaven, for a while.
But we were very different people. She wanted to pursue a career in the Foreign Service, make lot of money, and use sex to her advantage. I was into drama, music, literature, and religion. I was in my Bach phase, but she couldn’t get enough of the Commodores. I wrote a couple of piano pieces for her, but she found them uninteresting. She wanted me to go into engineering instead. I often think how funny it is that years later I ended up in software development quite by accident.
She had the sense to break off our engagement. I, like a fool, wanted to hang on. But eventually I had to let go. Going to college out of state helped.
Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way,
And merrily hent the stile-a:
A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad tires in a mile-a.
My life: often ridiculous, never dull.