I was born and brought up in the county of Shakespeare and have loved his work since I was old enough to know who he was. So when Lorna Simes chose this print for her fourth Dandy & Rose shirt, I was delighted. A Shakespearean western shirt? Why not?
The first Shakespeare play I ever saw was Romeo and Juliet. I think I was about twelve or thirteen and the production starred John Hurt and Lisa Harrow. I asked my Dad to take me to see it at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. He worked at the Massey Ferguson tractor factory in Coventry, but at the end of a long week, he put on his suit and headed back into the city, because I had asked him to, and he wanted me to have the education he hadn’t been offered. The play made a deep impression on me – as it would on anyone who saw John Hurt play Romeo, I imagine – and decades later I mentioned to my Dad how wonderful it had been. He told me he had had no idea what was going on onstage, because he didn’t understand Shakespeare, however much he wished he could. He just wanted me to have that experience. Thank you, Dad.
I don’t mind, then, that Liberty, having created a print showing stormy seas, starry constellations and fleets of ships, and called it ‘Tempest’ to boot, have covered it with bits of text from Romeo and Juliet. Apparently, the designer’s concept was to depict someone stranded on an island, who records their observations on the weather and movements of the Heavens on the only paper to hand – a copy of Shakespeare’s Works. I think I would have torn out the pages of a lesser play, myself.
Lorna’s shirt will be joining her when she sails on the Cayamo cruise in a couple of weeks’ time. If any of her fellow cruisers are alarmed by the stormy seas on her shirt, she can perhaps soothe them with the beautiful verse also printed on there. And reflect that she has taken the advice of Polonius to Laertes in Hamlet:
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
I can’t think of anything Shakespeare can have meant more by ‘rich’ than a cowgirl shirt with his own words printed on it!