I was introduced to Shakespeare in the sixth grade when our class put on three or four different productions of (much-edited) plays. Our Macbeth was a very tall basketball player who got to wear his mother's tights and run around bellowing his lines. I believe he is now a rap star/producer. I was Lady Macduff, and I got to stand there and look terrified before screaming very loudly off-stage while being murdered. It was probably the last time I did any acting at all.
In high school we studied the plays in their entirety. I remember performing a scene from Romeo and Juliet with a friend, using Indonesian-style shadow-puppets which we had made ourselves. The next year we would be watching the Polanski film version of Macbeth, entranced by the gruesome seductiveness of it, trying to remember the 'tomorrow' monologue for the weekly quiz. In Ashland at the Shakespeare Festival we saw King Lear and one of the Henrys (I can't remember which Henry, alas). And then I entered another era of literature and left Shakespeare behind. It would be years before I returned.
What I loved most about Shakespeare is the poetry of it, the brilliant dialogue between characters, which in verse burns brightly in your mind on the page. But what made my mind explode was the interpretation, when I saw it on stage, when the actor gave breath to word and the scene bloomed before my eyes. It is always more than you could have imagined it to be. On film it is a little different, because the electricity between actor and audience is gone, separated by the distance of filmmaking and editing and actors more famous for their beauty or tabloid relationships than their acting ability. Part of the connection is lost, the synergy between viewer and actor.
I'm headed to a performance of Richard III tonight, so it was time for a little...homework. I was, of course, immediately confused by the family tree and the cast of characters, so I put plot aside and fell into the poetry of the dialogue. Into the seductiveness of evil.