Lion Roars

February - March 2009


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Lee Capristo
Director of Publications
Email: lwcapristo@smcm.edu
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This above all: to thine own self be true

Alumnus Shares his Love of the Bard

Mark Faherty '91Mark Faherty, a law librarian in the District of Columbia and alumnus of the St. Mary’s Class of ’91, has converted his attic into “my little Shakespeare library.” It contains 500+ volumes related to Shakespeare and his plays, poems and epics, including the Hinman edition of the Folio facsimile (one of the bibles of Shakespearian reference) and a large map of Elizabethan London. Reference sources line one wall, and in a prominent space – a bust of the Bard himself.

Faherty collects related books and maps during his travels. Of course, he and his wife have season tickets to the Shakespeare theater company in D.C. They have been to the Globe in London, and Stratford, England, and attended the Stratford Ontario Shakespeare Festival in Canada this past year. “It’s a wonderful thing to live within a short Metro hop of the Folger Shakespeare Library for plays and museum exhibits,” Faherty tells us.

Yes, the study of Shakespeare is a very serious hobby.

River Gazette: So, Mark, why Shakespeare?

Faherty: It’s partly because his works have such a practical application in daily life. Think of your grandfather who can recite a biblical chapter that illuminates a difficulty he’s facing in modern life. For the more secular of us, Shakespeare provides a similar corpus for contemplation. Immersing yourself in the works allows you to recognize similarities between your experiences and those of the characters in the plays. I’ve received dating advice from Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing), leadership advice from Henry V, and ideas for throwing the best parties from Toby Belch (Twelfth Night) and Falstaff (Merry Wives of Windsor).

The other reason for specializing in Shakespearean criticism is that the jokes get even funnier. Modern audiences can quickly comprehend the universalelements and appreciate the artistry and beauty of his language. There are more double entendres than in the average Kevin Smith film.

River Gazette: Where did this focus come from?

Faherty: Upon graduating from St. Mary’s and completing my post graduate work, I found that I missed the enjoyment of picking a subject matter and committing to a course of study. As a librarian and a book collector, I know the importance of specialization. One should have a good general collection, and then pick an area to collect that is more narrowly defined. In 1993, I decided Shakespearean criticism and biography was going to be my area. I travel for work each spring to cities around the U.S. and in each one I pick a bookstore (The Lyrical Ballad in Sarasota Springs, City Lights in San Francisco, the Strand in New York City, even the Albion Books in Las Vegas) and hunt out both the shiny and the musty to add to my knowledge base, decrease my  shelf space and reduce myself to penury as soon as possible.

River Gazette: Which is your favorite?

Faherty: While it is begging the question, the play I’m reading or hearing at any given moment is my favorite. I have an affection for the neglected step-children that don’t often get praise (Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure, etc.) I also enjoy the Histories; they contain a lot of practical lessons in good governance. Among the comedies, it would be Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night. In the tragedies, it would be Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

River Gazette: Do you socialize with other devotees?

Faherty: My wife also enjoys Shakespeare although not quite to the extremes that I do. With my friends, I have had to learn to be judicious when sharing my excitement on a particular biographical scrap not to extend beyond the bounds of courtesy. If I haven’t been judicious enough my close friends know me well enough to make snoring noises.

River Gazette: Did you ever tread the stage at St. Mary’s?

Faherty: While I never made an appearance on the stage at St. Mary’s, I did see every single main-stage production. I remember a production of Romeo and Juliet. John Worely and Laura Otis were playing Capulet and Juliet respectively. In this production, in Act 3 Scene 5 where Juliet tells her dad that she is less than thrilled about her impending marriage to Paris, Capulet in his rage slaps her to the ground. The tension and the drama of the scene were amplified by a profuse nosebleed. I asked Laura and John about this later, since no one else who had seen the play mentioned it to me and I thought it was a very powerful stage device. Unbeknownst to the audience or to her fellow actors on stage, Laura had gotten her nose clipped by someone’s elbow at the beginning of the scene. Feeling her nose begin to bleed and knowing that the confrontation with her father was looming, she managed to recite her lines while holding back the tide and at the moment of the slap she let go. You could hear the collective gasp of the audience. Apparently, once off stage, John fell over himself in apology to Laura while insisting that he didn’t even know he’d made contact.