Shakespeare, Scripture, and ‘All the world’s a stage’

Shakespeare has been appearing on my radar a lot lately. I recently drove past a billboard with his portrait saying “Shakespeare—words never had it so good”. There’s a new play at a local theatre I believe has combined all of his plays into one integrated performance. Othello was a crossword puzzle clue today. A friend confided the other day he’d like to read all of Shakespeare’s works before he died, a desire I also share. I also conveyed this same goal to my sister in a recent conversation.

One of the most avid readers I know, she replied deftly “Shakespeare wasn’t meant to be read, but watched. It’s like reading a recipe book; all the ingredients are there but you have to make and taste the dish to really experience it.”

It made much sense to me. When Shakespeare wrote, it wasn’t books but scripts of lines for actors to learn and perform on stage for all to see and experience. The entertainment of its day, the stage offered drama, distraction, imagination, enlightenment, and camaraderie to the masses. Not as polite as today’s modern theatergoers, the energy of the audience often created the atmosphere in which performances took place, helping draw them into the story and making them, too, participants. The entire experience was a feast for the senses for all involved, both actors and audience. As a Bible student, I see this dynamic as distinctly similar to approaching and applying Scripture.

The Holy Scriptures are not a disjointed collection of randomly written sentences blabbering on about some impersonal deity. They are revelation of the main character, LORD, and the story He is framing around His epic cast of human characters. Much of the story concerning them is one of estrangement, from both God and each other; the story God is crafting, however, is one of salvation. Each Bible book—whether history, statute, wisdom and prayer poetry, or prophecy—bears witness to the salvation story and it’s saving Storyteller who sanctifies His characters.

If we are to be participants in the salvation substance of this story, we need to get into character. The sacred Script has assigned us our parts; as the Body of Christ, who is the image of LORD, our role is to embody the holiness of the main character. Our lives are now passion plays proclaiming salvation’s hope. Both as individuals and congregation, we demonstrate the vitality of salvation living by enacting these words which give shape to salvation life.

Scripture is meant to be read; but it is certainly meant to be experienced in those who conform to the character of Christ and seen in those whose lives are enactments of salvation.

Jesus had his own “All the world’s a stage” line when he told his followers “you shall be My witnesses…to the remotest part of the earth”. With the curtain thrown open, unveiling our place of performance and participation, the salvation show must go on.

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