I think Anna’s love for Shakespeare began from listening to a cassette in our car. It was part of a large series of stories on cassette told by an expert story-teller. He took famous stories from history and literature and retold them, skillfully dramatizing the various characters. This story teller told two stories by Shakespeare—The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had a few books at home that retold the Shakespeare stories for children and Anna devoured each of them, developing a decided bias for Shakespeare’s comedies over his histories and tragedies.
Timberley added fuel to the fire by assigning a short soliloquy from Macbeth for Anna to memorize. Everyone who heard her remembers the drama in her presentation, not to mention her wonderful British accent.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Macbeth Act V, Scene V)
Anna was so captivated by Shakespeare and by the drama of reciting his work that she set out to begin reading his plays and memorizing important soliloquys. She began reading The Merchant of Venice and memorizing Juliet’s speech from the balcony in Romeo and Juliet. Anna loved drama, romance, and Elizabethan England, and she found a ready home in the world of Shakespeare.
I will never be able to forget Anna’s voice ringing out those words: “Out, out, brief candle!” It is like a bell tolling. Like so many things she said, those words were a premonition of her brief life, her untimely death. But her last line, said with such gusto, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” is certainly not true. Anna’s life was neither full of sound and fury, nor did it signify nothing.
But then, how do we measure the significance of a life? Does each of our lives have the same amount of significance? I suppose it depends on whether we are looking at a life from below or from above. Do we see a life from a human, temporal perspective, or do we see it from a divine, eternal perspective?
Certainly from a human perspective Anna’s life did not amount to much. She was a young girl, unknown and unheard of outside of her immediate circle of influence. She quietly lived out her life in a remote corner of the globe, far from her own people and larger family. She was full of potential had she lived a longer life, but unfortunately that potential was snuffed out along with her life. From a human perspective, Anna’s life did indeed signify nothing.
But viewing Anna from a divine perspective yields a different portrait. Then we see a young girl who from an early age fell in love with her Creator and Savior. She was acutely aware of her own sin. She was given a gift of being able to read from an early age and used that gift to read all of God’s word. All, that is, up until God’s final vision of what was to come, at which point Anna—I can see her now with her faraway look—took up her pen, and turning from the book of Revelation to the front page of the New Testament, she wrote not the date of completing her reading, as she had done with every other book in her Bible, but instead penned, “I had to stop because it was just too heavenly for me.” Oh, what a window into her soul we find in those simple words. And those words, among many other things, lead one to say that from a divine perspective her life was not just sound and fury with no significance, but was rather quietly and deeply lived in full knowledge of her God. Anna’s life was significant.