Essay

Memory

Today is the Ides of March. I am planning to re-read Julius Caesar in commemoration. 

I remember that this play was the first of Shakespeare’s plays I had ever seen on stage. I was in 9th grade . . . I had never before seen a Shakespeare play on stage. Is that true? Perhaps . . . perhaps what? I do not recall, cannot recollect–remembering can happen by happenstance.

Were their productions before this one we saw somewhere in Connecticut, a school trip–I did see Kiss Me Kate in summer stock in the Berkshires when I was a boy, but a Broadway Musical based on The Taming of the Shrew does not count, does it?

I have seen a lot of productions of Shakespeare in my life. I could count how many and list them here, saying something about each, an apositive phrase (and yes, that is apositive), a subordinate clause or two, an added sentence or three–but no. I will leave that for another time, another entry, essay, story . . . why though wait?

I know I saw Derek Jacobi in a production of As You Like It. I did see Ian McKellen in his one man show Acting Shakespeare. I saw a few productions of MacBeth, one recently in Philedelphia, another a few decades ago with David Overtoom in the lead. I saw another at the Bouwerie Lane Theater by the Jean Cocteau Repertory. I did see Hamlet off-off Broadway somewhere somewhen how long ago I cannot say. I saw Romeo and Juliet at Theater 80, what was it, fifteen years ago? Or was it sixteen or seventeen? I am not going to continue to wonder. It was before the theater was allowed to decay as it has since, and was after it was an art house cinema where I saw many Truffaut and Goddard films.

I did see Christopher Walken in the title role in the play Coriolanus at the Public Theater on Lafayette Street. I saw Patrick Stewart as Prospero in The Tempest in Central Park now at least a score of years ago. I saw Shakespeare in Toronto in the 80s, and forget which play–it was Toronto’s version of New York’s Papp Productions of Shakespeare in the Park. I think I recollect a production of Two Gentleman of Verona, but perhaps I am mistaken. What then must I do with memories–the retrieval is everything?

Method in the madness, to recall and to recollect cannot be interchangeable in every context of use. No two words, you know. There are connotations that differ and are useful when explaining what happens when I remember. I can recall without recollecting? I did not use to think so. How is everything, isn’t it? I am not so sure about this anymore. Recalling and recollecting are very, very similar, too close for any connotative meaning to differ in any way that is significant or useful.

What is it we have in memory . . . what is this thing, this place? memory? Memory, remembrance, recollections, reminiscence. How are all of them related, how are each of them similar or the same (in what contexts of use) and how do they differ from one another? Where do their connotations diverge and thus become useful in distinguishing them from one another in communication?

Memor in Latin was to be mindful–and again, using etymology to trace the history of a word, or how we have come to understand a word is not to indulge the etymological fallacy. So, to be mindful is what memory is or does or induces. Memini is “I remember” in Latin. We do understand that the prefix re in all three words herein under discussion means again, ‘recollection’ coming from re and collect, something of going and fetching. ‘Collect’ comes from the Latin con and legere, literally, with linking. To collect is to bring together,perhaps in arrangement which may not be what recall does when it happens. Calling to mind and collecting in this way above are not exactly the same thing. Wordsworth’s pronouncement of and for poetry, recollections in tranquility, points to, if not simply hints at, this special arranging that happens with recollections.

By the will and without the will; willful and unwillful–these then are the ways memory operates in us, no? I am not certain if it is true that I remember what you said to me yesterday, but I recollect the incidents of my boyhood? I do though think that remembering is brandy and recollection is cognac?  Is reminiscence then armagnac? I know that a reminiscence is either willfully brought to mind or un-willfully arisen there. Recollection is an agent of the will. Is the connotative difference of recall from recollect in the will, how recall is thus a combination of reminiscence and recollection? Or is it in the figurative differecnes of the acts of calling and collecting–recall is more haphazard than recollecting because calling back to mind the images or residue of sensory experiences are not placed in any order, but collecting again what has since been forgotten is under the operation of ordering, arranging, as, again, we understand from above in Wordsworth.

This is not the last of what can be said.

 

 

 

 

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