One year ago today, I was sat at home, struggling to focus my eyes on the pixelated face of the teacher staring back at me through my computer screen.
“Anousha, how has Shakespeare used dramatic irony as a tool in Act III?”’
I frantically flicked through the pages in the playscript, well-thumbed by countless struggling students before me. Romeo & Juliet: one of the most famous works in the English literary tradition, world renowned, funny yet harrowing, ugly yet beautiful… and still I felt nothing for it.
Why were we discussing a tragedy, written over 400 years ago, when we were living through one at that very moment? Why were we analysing Romeo’s soliloquy declaring his love for Juliet when we, ourselves couldn’t interact with our loved ones without an ethernet cable and a Zoom login? To me, that was both dramatic and ironic.
I started to think Microsoft Teams had crashed. There were three other people trying to access the internet in my household, so maybe it was a Wi-Fi problem? Had my computer run out of charge? No, the black wire snaking across the floor was most definitely switched on at the mains and the screen was still on. “Um… Miss?”
A full orbit of the sun later, I now realise that the most important lesson we learned over the many lockdowns is the importance of human connection. And if there’s one thing that Romeo & Juliet is about, it’s love and connection.
So, in retrospect, there really was no better time to explore one of Shakespeare’s best works.