At the age of 13, I was introduced to something new, enchanting, complex but yet, captivating at the same time. In Grade 8, William Shakespeare invaded my life and became one of the pivotal forces behind my love and appreciation for classical English literature. From Grades 8 to 12, I read his work with great enthusiasm and vigour. The first Shakespeare prose that I read, dissected, and enjoyed was ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. One of the characters that I fell in love with who would later become the poster-child for the trickster genre, was the character of Puck. He was a pint-sized master manipulator who literally had everyone dancing to his tune. His charismatic and wily spirit was captured through Shakespeare’s clever use of dialogue. As a reader, we are sucked into that Shakespearian vortex where we feel like flies on the wall. So much of Puck’s character was revealed through his dialogue with the other characters. He was critical in painting a bigger picture of the dynamic role-plays at work. Another Shakespeare play which I enjoyed was ‘Othello’, and more specifically, the character of Iago. Through his dialogues, Iago’s two-faced persona echoed so vividly, especially in the opening scene where he describes his disdain for Othello by referring to him as the Moorish beast who was making love to the sweet Desdemona. However, in Othello’s presence he appeared to worship him and cunningly lead Othello to his tragic downfall. Again, the dialogue here brought Iago’s character under the spotlight. His Harvey Two Face-like persona showcased his carefully juxtaposed character. To the reader, he was the snake lying in wait, ready to strike his victim with a powerful dose of venom. In Othello’s presence, the sweet sugar-coated words of admiration to his General spilled out. Shakespeare was a maestro at giving his audience a 360 degree view of his characters.
With that in mind, I firmly believe that any up and coming writer needs to perfect the art of dialogue in their prose. Why is it important, you may ask? Well, because dialogue forms the building blocks or foundation on which characters come to life. We connect, relate and judge these characters by their spoken word. Their spoken word sets the mood, setting and dynamic complexities in which the plot unfolds or thickens. Whether you want to create a light-hearted ambience, suspense or tragedy, the concise and succinct use of dialogue is needed.
My love for Shakespeare and the manner in which I have connected to some of these characters reminds me of how pivotal dialogue is in our own lives. Dialogue is a modus in which we can openly communicate, channel and emit our inner feelings, and thought processes. I believe that a misunderstanding can occur at a micro or macro level due to a lack of communication. If there were more open, no-holds-barred, honest dialogues between individuals involved in a relationship or between countries at war with one another, will prevailing disruptive issues still surge on or will we race against the clock at a greater rate to resolve the matter at hand?
We are the characters in our own story, watching our own plot unfold. The best way to evoke and shed light on our inner souls is through spoken word. How others judge, interpret, or take heed of what we tell them is entirely their choice. Like a character in a Shakespeare play, our spoken words may deem us the villain or the hero. Thus, it is very important to think before we speak. Words may not kill you but it does leave a lasting impression. On a personal note, I can think of a situation where a lack of dialogue has led to my personal pain and suffering for as long as I can remember. Growing up with an alcoholic father, the only dialogues exchanged with him were bursts of anger on both sides- where he would tell me pretty nasty things while intoxicated. I have now decided to cease all open dialogue with him as a result. My soul has been bruised and battered enough by the one man that I should be able to trust above all else. Now, I sit here pondering, if he, like a character in a literary novel, is a villain or a tragic hero? Should I open those lines of communication again and tell him exactly how I feel? I don’t know what to believe anymore or whether I was too critical and judgemental while over-analysing those very few interchanges that we’ve had.
One thing is for certain though, we must endeavour to continue to write our own story and be thick-skinned enough to realize that we can’t please the masses. We will have our haters, critics and over-zealous fans. I have come to terms with that reality the hard way, have you?