OUR MIDWEEK MEDITATION. GOLD
All that glitters is not gold…
I’ve been thinking about gold, and the meaning of it quite a bit over the past week or so since the Olympics took over our lives.
For me, whenever I think of gold, I think of being 18 and scoring a job with the Oxford Playhouse Company in a season that included Edward Woodward, Leo McKern, and the wonderful Judi Dench.
During The Merchant of Venice I was elevated from floor sweeper and dogsbody to be the gold casket bearer while Bassanio gave his casket speech.
I was dressed in a fetching golden Elizabethan costume.
Every night, I would listen to Bassanio while every night he dismissed me: Therefore, thou gaudy gold, hard food for Midas, I will none of thee…
The silver casket fared no better: Thou pale and common drudge tween man and man…
Lead – the base metal dismissed by the other suitors – was his casket of choice, and the one, of course, in which lay his heart’s desire, the portrait of Portia which allows him to claim her hand.
As the failed suitor, the Prince of Morocco, who chooses the gold finds out afterwards, all that glisters is not gold. A Shakespearian expression that has changed over the centuries to all that glitters is not gold.
Having to stand completely still for the entire length of the speech, I had plenty of time to contemplate the importance of gold and why Shakespeare would make light of our most precious metal, reducing it in part to fool’s gold – an echo of which is perhaps to be found in Shylock’s losing bet with Antonio.
At the age of 18 I was convinced Shakespeare had got it wrong – Portia’s portrait should have been, I thought, in the gold casket.
Four decades later I’m a little wiser…
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