I have recently been exploring the world of twitter so look out for my tweets on behalf of the Birthplace Trust – or even better send me a tweet. Anyway, yesterday I saw a tweet that made me think and it went something like this…
“How short is a story?”
This got me thinking about something which might be one of the reasons for Shakespeare’s popularity. At least it is something I know I enjoy about Shakespeare’s works.
Shakespeare’s long stories are full of short stories. Little hints at the stories untold which lie behind the stories we are immersed in. I would like to look for the shortest story Shakespeare tells, but that would be a long project and I only have a short time. But I can share one of my favourites from Much Ado About Nothing
The play is about Beatrice and Benedick who are tricked into falling in love, against their better judgement but, one hopes, not against their true desires. We know very little about Beatrice and Benedick but that whenever they meet there is a ‘skirmish of wit’ between them. We are not told why this should be but when Don Pedro admonishes Beatrice for a particularly cutting remark to Benedick, and we discover in her reply a whole story behind their merry skirmishes…
Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.
Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one: marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.
These 4 lines tell a short story about a past relationship between Beatrice and Benedick which is never explained or alluded to elsewhere in the play. But clearly there is a back story …. what happened exactly?
Did Benedick break Beatrice’s heart?
Is that why she is so cynical?
How can she come to trust him again?
Does he really love her?
Is he really a charming heart breaker who wins women with ‘false dice’?
We will never know – but we can have fun speculating!
But 4 lines is quite long for a short story. Check out this web page for a selection of 6 word stories – why not submit your own.
But Shakespeare can do even better than that…. Here is a great 5 word story from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
I was adored once too.