Exams … with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in.

I have no doubt that UW-Madison’s academic climate is a bit tense at the moment thanks to upcoming exams; the Warwick student body shares your sentiments 🙂 Our third and final term began last week, and the entire 10-week long term is devoted to exam preparation. Instead of attending lectures and seminars as usual, we have about four weeks of ‘revision’ lectures (meant to review the entire year’s worth of material—which is, frankly, impossible to do in a handful of hour-long lectures) before exams begin. The agony is prolonged over five weeks, but seeing as we have a year’s worth of material to memorize, I suppose it’s justified. Needless to say, we’re yearning for the end!

This past weekend, however, gave us a bit of relief from the burdens of academia as the entire country stood still for the Royal Wedding. It was a national celebration, to say the least, with patriotic shades of red, white and blue (oddly American, in some respects!) adorning the student atrium. I did not go to London for the wedding, but I did make it to London the following day—just in time to see the decorations on the shop windows and the Union Jacks lining the street from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace J The street was closed off to vehicular traffic, so my friends and I walked down the middle of the flag-lined avenue feeling just slightly majestic.

Why was I in London the day after the wedding? To fulfil a long-held dream of mine by seeing a play at Shakespeare’s Globe! The Globe is modelled after the original theatre: it’s circular in structure, with seats on three sides of the stage and an open-air courtyard immediately in front of the stage for ‘groundlings’ (Shakespeare’s term for the poorer classes who could only afford penny-tickets, and therefore had to stand in the yard during the performance). Wishing to experience Shakespeare to the fullest (and taking into account our student budgets), we honoured the groundling tradition by paying £5 for standing ‘seats’. As awful as it may sound to stand for the duration of a Shakespeare play, I can assure you that it is not awful—on the contrary, it’s indescribably amazing. You simply cannot get much closer to the raw action and verbal eloquence of Shakespearean tragedy when your elbows are resting on top of the stage and Hamlet is sitting about two feet in front of you! As an added bonus, the open-air theatre lends itself to a much more unpredictable play-going experience, exemplified by the rogue pigeon that began strutting around the stage in the middle of Queen Gertrude’s poignant description of Ophelia’s death. (Fail.)

With Hamlet as a last ‘Hurrah!’ before the upcoming exam period, I am now prepared to hit the books for my remaining two months at Warwick, while holding all of you and your exam preparations in my thoughts as well 🙂