首先我们要谈论的是莎士比亚对英语的影响。我将在这里展示给大家，你们可以读出这些单词吗？这些是我们常用的英文单词：assassination（暗杀），film（电影），champion（冠军），birthplace（出生地），employer（雇主），advertising（广告），investment（投资），designs（设计），engagement（约会），retirement（退休），exposure（曝光），eventful（多事的），coldblooded（冷血），watch dog（看门狗），puppy dog（小狗），traditional（传统）等等。
Hello, everyone. First of all, before I start talking to you about what I am going to be talking to you about today, I want to apologize to all of you. I've lived and worked in China for the last sixteen years. And I'm so sorry that I'm too old and stupid to learn your beautiful language. So, please forgive me. I do think it's beautiful, I just can't say it right. I know a lot of Chinese words, but if I say them, you wouldn’t understand me.
It's a great honor for me to be standing on the stage with these other very creative, inventive and ingenious men and women who are developing all kinds of new and exciting and important technological advancements and with great creativity and imagination. What I want to talk to you about today is a creation that happened about 500 years ago that we're only now beginning to understand full implications of, and that creation that the creator was a man named William Shakespeare. And his writings have had profound influences not only in theatre and poetry in the English language, but as you well know, all across the world.
What I want to talk about a little bit today, because most of my life has been spent in the performing or directing of Shakespeare's plays, teaching students about Shakespeare, directing professional productions all over the world, many here in China, many in Chinese, many mixing sometimes multiplicity of languages, Chinese and English and Arabic, a variety of different languages at once. I've directed several Chinese operas that have been evolved from Shakespeare plays into Chinese opera forms. That's about everything you can imagine doing with the Shakespeare play I've involved with. But what I want to try to help you understand today because it has such an impact in my life.
By the way, that weird picture that you see with me with a long hair is a play that I do and I will perform again soon in Xi’an. It's about my first introduction to Shakespeare which happened many many years ago when I was six years old. So, Shakespeare's been a profound part of my life, for my entire life.
One of the things I want to try to help you to understand is why Shakespeare having done his work 500 years ago in a culture that is completely different than the culture that any of us experience including the people who live in England where he was born and worked 500 years ago. Why he's still relevant to us, why he's important to us and why this innovative work that he did remain as innovative today as it was 500 years ago when he began his work?
One of the first things is that always be addressed when you're talking about Shakespeare is his influence on the English language. I want to show you something here. Can you see all these words? I'm going to read them to you. These are words that we use every day in English. Assassination, film, champion, birthplace, employer, advertising, investment, designs, engagement, retirement, exposure, eventful, coldblooded, watch dog, puppy dog, traditional, on and on and on.
Shakespeare invented, coined all these words, they didn't exist before he came along. And this is only a handful. There are something like between five and ten thousand words that never existed before he began using English.
And in fact, today if you speak English, if you say more than one sentence, you cannot say a sentence that doesn't include a word that Shakespeare created, or coined, or invented. So his effect just on how we speak English today is a very profound one and he continues to influence everything that we do in terms of language in English. We often think of his English, that Elizabethan English, as being very archaic, old with strange and difficult words. But actually, a huge portion of a number of words we speak in English today were invented by him and didn't exist before he started writing, which is a profound part of his creative genius but not really what I want to talk about today.
What Shakespeare was doing as a writer of plays was something completely different than anyone had ever done before him, anyone else was doing during his lifetime, or anyone has been able to do since in writing plays or even movies for that matter. And this is what Shakespeare was doing with his writing. He was creating real believable characters often with accents and character traits from specific regions, the countries that he is writing about, really believable characters.
But he was also doing something that you and I are doing right now. For instance, while I am talking to you about Shakespeare and a little bit of my life, I'm also thinking about other things. While you're listening to me, you're thinking about other things. It’s the way our minds of human beings work. We focus on one primary thing, but in the back of our mind that a little distance is another thought, like I've got to do this later on, I've got to meet him or her later on, we're always thinking of other things.
What Shakespeare created on the stage was a way to see actually what was going on, on the stage, so that you can watch a story with real believable characters, and one in the same time see what was going on in that character's mind. So that not only you're watching the story when you watch a Shakespeare play, but you're also watching what the characters are thinking the other things that they're thinking. The way that our human mind works.
And then the other element that's not often talked about in Shakespeare's writing but it’s perhaps the most important is that he uses the English language in such a way that connects with us on an even deeper level , on what one might call spiritual level. We begin to feel things and this is true, even if you don't speak English, and you watch a really wonderful English language production of Shakespeare. You can find yourself being moved to tears, moved to laughter, without even understanding what's going on. Because of the genius of what he was doing with language. And what he was doing specifically with the sounds of the English language.
I'm gonna ask you today to experiment with me because as I've probably told you at the beginning, I am an actor. And so I do a lot of work with language and I worked on everyone of Shakespeare's plays and I've had the privilege of playing all these major Shakespearean characters. And I want to share with you, I want to you, in the audience, to begin to experience what I experience as an actor every time I work on a Shakespeare character.
And in order to do that, we gonna had to take a very brief look at the English language. And English, when you think about some questions that I'm gonna ask you, please keep your thoughts simple. Because I'm a pretty simple-minded guy. But what I'm about to tell you is true but it's simple. English, the English language is made of only two elements, just two. You probably, those of you who speak English know what those elements are. You can think about for a moment. They're vowels and consonants. Whether you're speaking English or writing English, it's all there is, vowels and consonants.
If you look at the bottom of the page you see the 5 primary vowels. A, E, I, O, U. What I'd like everyone in the audience with me who can understand those to say them with me once. A, A, A, E, I, O, U. Say them, A, E, I, O, U. One more time, they are so beautiful. A, E, I, O, U. If you look at me, you see that I close my eyes when I'm saying them. I'd like you to close your eyes and say them with me as loudly as you can one more time. A, E, I, O, U.
Now, there’re 5 primary vowel sounds, there are 8 other vowel sounds which are mixing these vowels together. So there is only 13 sounds in English. Think for a minute, what are those? You know there's a long time, historians tell us, when human beings, what we all are, did not speak to each other in any language. And over a period of time, language evolved, in order to communicate.
And primarily, when you think about it, it evolved in order to communicate emotions. I love you, I hate you, I'm afraid, all these emotions that are common to all of us across all of societal, linguistic and cultural barriers. The things that we all experience as human beings. English vowel sounds, which linguists tell us, evolve first, are human emotions, trying to express themselves. That's what AEIOU and the eight other sounds are. They are feelings.
If you don't believe me, think about this. In Beijing, in Shanghai, in Africa, in America, in England and Brazil and Spain and Greece. There's a group of people, all over the world, who speak nothing but English vowel sounds. And you know some of them, here in China, who do that.
Babies, all over the world, before they learn to speak their respective languages. When they're trying to communicate you from the crib, and tell you how they're feeling, they make these noises: A, E, I, O, U. And when babies want to be fed or have their diaper changed, they scream and cry. But when they're trying to tell you what they're feeling, they make these noises. The noises of English vowel sounds. I know, I had a baby and watched her do that for many years, before she started speaking.
So, think about that for a moment, vowel sounds in English are human emotion trying to express itself. And the other element is consonants. You know what they are, T, B, Z, V, F. If you know English, you know these sounds. And there are 24, primarily 24 of those. They developed to make these human emotions clear. Because before these sounds evolved, all you have was just a noise of emotion but there was no way to make the feeling clear.
So, all English operates on this principle. The feeling, the vowel sounds, framed by these consonant sounds to make the feeling clear. I wanna show you some really quick examples of this. Look at this word, Wow. Say that word aloud with me. Wow. One more time. Wow. Look at how it's made, it's the feeling, the “o”, in the center, and a “w”, two consonants on either side, one word. So you get a feeling in the middle and two consonants framing it to make it clear. Wow.
Now look at this word. War, War, War. It's made the same way. It's one small word with a vowel in the center of feeling, and two consonants framing it, a “w” and a “r”. Say this word aloud with me. War.
Now let's say the two words together. Wow, War. Now I'm gonna ask you to close your eyes and do that one more time. Wow, War. One more time. Wow, War. Do you feel what happens to you? Just by saying those words. You have a little bit of emotional change, just by saying the words. Wow is a word that is exciting. It means what it is. It energizes us. And war is darker. It's a sad word.
Let's look at just one more word to finish this example. This word is pronounced Woe. And it's a perfectly legitimate word in English today. In Shakespearean in English he uses it all the time. You may still use it, but about 80 years ago we started using a different word most of the time, Sadness. That's what Woe means. But look how Woe is made: it has a consonant at the beginning, a vowel sound, the “o” and the “e” together create an “oe” sound, but it has no end.
Think about this for a moment. When you have an experience of sadness, and I don't mean just something that make you uncomfortable, but someone you love dies, you lose something that is terribly important to you, and you feel sadness. One of the things that it feels like is that it will never never end. In your mind intellectually you know that it will end. You see other people get through the same experience and they go on with their lives. But it feels like it will never end. Look at how this word is made. It doesn't have an end. Woe...... I'm so sad forever.
All words in English, to a greater of lesser extent operate on this principle. Feelings, vowels, framed by consonants to make those feelings clear. All men and women who write plays in English use this principle, either intuitively or they study it to use it. No one before him, during his life time or since his life time, has used this principle in the way that Shakespeare did.
He creates sounds, not only the meanings of words, not just the ideas and philosophies, and the thoughts that are pertinent to us today, they're still the ideas in his plays. But the sounds, and this is the innovation of him, the primary innovation that if you listen to his play, you can find yourself being moved by the sounds that he's created. So that what's going on on the stage you're watching and you're listening and the characters are making you feel certain things, and the story situation is making you feel certain things, but these noises are moving your very soul. And this is what he did.
And he did it in this magical way that, as I said, no one else has even come close to. And we are only now, as actors and directors and theatre artists, beginning to understand the full implication of this magical way that he used language.
One of the things that you need to remember about Shakespeare when he wrote, theaters were so different than the theater that we are in today when we are doing this. And most theaters now are very much like this. Up on a stage with lights and the audience sits out here. It's quiet. You go out. In Shakespeare's day there's nothing like that. It was outdoors, there were no lights. And people stood in the front, talking, drinking beer, eating peanuts.
The street noises were going on. It was in London so it was really busy with lots of horses and bargains and people yelling. In one of the theaters that Shakespeare performed, the Globe, and that side of the globe was a brothel, a whore house, with all that noise going on. Over on the other side of the theater was a bear baiting contest where people were sticking live bears with sticks and making them scream and being chased. People were down here talking.
There were no lights, there was no set. There were no costumes like we know now. There was only language to make the audience pay attention to make them understand. So he had to create ways to get your attention and make you listen. And he did this through the use of language.
And I want you, just a very rudimentary way, begin to try to experience this. We're gonna look at a bit of language now, from one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, King Lear. And you're all gonna perform this with me very quickly. We're gonna rehearse it very quickly and then you’re gonna perform it. The is a part, King Lear, if you don't know the story, he's a King and he decides to retire, and he's going to give this kingdom to his three daughters. Two of these daughters are really wicked. And they drive King Lear to madness. So that they can control all of his kingdom.
And this is the scene, a very famous scene in King Lear, where Lear is out in a thunder storm. Remember in Shakespeare’s day, there was no special effects, no way to create a thunder storm on stage. So he had to do it with language. But also, King Lear is going through a thunder storm in his interior life. So in his soul is a storm as well as the exterior storm. So Shakespeare use this language to create both the storm that you're listening to and imagine it on stage, and also the storm inside this man's soul. And he does it with use of vowels and consonants.
So we're gonna try this together. I want you say with me this first word, blow, which means the wind is blowing. Only you have to connect with the vowel so it sounds like, blow... Would you try that with me? Blow... Now, please give yourself to this because you begin to have some kind of strange wonderful experience yourself. Don't be afraid of this language. Don't worry about being embarrassed. Just try to say these words with me. Blow... Winds, “ds”. The end of winds, “ds”, which makes this noise of a storm. “Ds”, winds, and crack, crack, crack, your cheeks. Good, that was great “cheeks”. And then the final two words, great words that he gives us to indicate the storm. Rage. Try that. Rage. Blow.
OK, everybody stand up. Let's try this together. You probably didn't realize when you came here today that you're gonna be performing King Lear. But all of you are about becoming King Lear with me. So, try to begin to feel what our greatest writer of all times in English was doing, this kind of magic that he was creating for all of us. So let's try this together. I'll guide you. I'll say it first and then you say it with me.
So let’s take the first word. We are creating a storm, a storm that the audience can see in their minds, and also representing this internal storm. So let's try the first word. Blow. One more time. Blow, winds, and crack, your cheeks. Rage. Let's do that one more time, I love that one. Rage. Blow. You guys are so good. Thank you. Please sit down.
What I hope you begin to understand, is that really I'm saying to you is absolutely true. His use of language, his use of vowels and consonants, is so unique and so powerful that we're only now beginning to understand all the full implications.
I want to leave you with one of my favorite speeches of Shakespeare. And it's called the Seven Ages of Man speech from a play called As You Like It. And if you would imagine with me for a moment, a very old man at the end of his life, looking back on his life, and remembering what life was.
And what I'm gonna try to do for you is what all of us who perform Shakespeare try to do every time we perform him, is let his written use of English, the vowels and the consonants, transform us upon the stage into these hundreds of characters that he created who are able to profoundly share with you emotions and ideas that no other writer has been able to approach.
So you can read along with me either in your mind in English or in the Chinese translation behind me which is by one of my heroes Zhu Shenghao. And so imagine in your mind, as I'm going to for a moment, a very old man reflecting, at the edge of death, reflecting on his life, what happened to him, and what happens to all of us in the course of our life.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely player;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrows. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances.
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.