On February 21 (the day before rehearsal), I had an opportunity to make a public presentation on the Shakespeare Prison Project (story here: Shakespeare Prison Project Has Connection to Community’s “Big Read”).
At the beginning of rehearsal, I shared my thoughts about the experience. I mentioned that a man was there who is very interested in our work, and who is interested in possible connections with his own practice. He has worked with veterans suffering from trauma, using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Foist wanted to know more about this kind of therapy, and also, about the aims of therapy in general. He had a lot of questions. This led to a 30-minute discussion, where several men shared their own experiences with a variety of therapies (including, but not limited to EMDR). On the whole, the men felt that their time in therapy was of benefit – helping them to understand and to work constructively with difficult memories, thoughts, and feelings. A couple of them said they saw connections with our work in The Shakespeare Prison Project, in that our work encourages them to reflect on the emotional life of the characters they are playing, and how that inner life is similar to and different from their own.
We went on to rehearse 4.2.
As we worked the scene, we came across a sequence that resonated with our discussion of therapy and its benefits. The sequence begins with Arviragus’ comment on how “Fidele” (Imogen) talks about his illness:
Arviragus. Nobly he yokes
A smiling with a sigh, as if the sigh
Was that it was for not being such a smile – 30
The smile mocking the sigh that it would fly
From so divine a temple to commix
With winds that sailors rail at.
Guiderius. I do note
That grief and patience, rooted in them both,
Mingle their spurs together.
Arviragus. Grow patience, 35
And let the stinking-elder, grief, untwine
His perishing root, with the increasing vine.
Arviragus and Guiderius are commenting on the “noble” way that Fidele manages his emotions, linking his patience, expressed in a smile, to his grief, expressed with a sigh. As Valerie Wayne explains, they go on to express “a wish that Fidele’s patience will grow and increase, causing the elder tree’s shallow roots, associated with grief, to give way and perish. Patience was the common name for an edible dock called monk’s rhubarb that had purgative and healing qualities…” (Cymbeline, Third Arden Edition, p. 286, note (lines 58-60)).
“Nobly he yokes a smiling with a sigh” also reminds me of the advice that a revered Buddhist monk offers for working with difficult emotions:
…breathe deeply, and say to yourself,
“Breathing in, I know I am angry. Breathing out, I am taking good care of my anger.”
Do this until you feel a lot better and can smile to your anger.
(Thich Nhat Hanh, A Pebble for Your Pocket, Parallax Press, 2006)