Whenever you hear the words “Two households, both alike in dignity” or “Now is the winter of our discontent” something happens. If you are in “the know,” synapses will fire in your brain, or in a more Romantic manner, you Passions will be excited, your fancy take flight. Contained within these two iconic opening lines are the spirit of Romeo, of Juliet, of The Nurse: or of Richard III, Anne, Margaret &c. The fight between Mercutio and Tybalt or Clarence’s lament surfaces to the mind in a fit of excitement as we see in our mind’s eye these scenes reenacted.
In novels we praise good opening lines: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Such iconic lines draw us into the story, set up everything that is to follow, and compels us to read more.
So let us take the time to reflect on our favourite first lines, Shakespeare or other, and celebrate the first of many great lines contained within books. Let us know your favourite, Shakespeare or other, in the comments below. Or tweet us (@ShakesInAction) with the hashtag #GreatFirstLine!
But while you are here, allow us to further divert you with this little quiz. How many of these opening lines by the Bard can you place?
1. Who’s there?
2. Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
3. In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.
4. I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon comes this night to Messina.
5. Hence! Home you idle creatures get you home.
6. I’ll pheeze you, in faith.
7. To sing a song that old was sung.
8. I thought the King had more affection for the Duke of Albany than Cornwall
9. So shaken as we are, so wan with care, find we a time for frighted peace to pant, and breathe short-winded accents of new broils to be commenced in strands afar remote.
10. Good day, sir.
Hope you enjoyed that. And remember to treat each day as if is the first line of your the story of your life. That was really bad, I know. How about: “a first line is only contingent on whether you begin at the beginning.”
S.I.A IS ARTISTIC COMPANY IN RESIDENCE AT CENTRAL TORONTO ACADEMY. © SHAKESPEARE IN ACTION 2015. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.