PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Right Angle Club 2009
The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

Will Power

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William Shakespeare

One wonders how it can possibly be that people still exist who don't realize that William Shakespeare was to literature what Newton was to science, i.e., a person who laid the groundwork for almost everything that was to come in his field. You won't find any such shortcoming amongst the 35 members of the Shakspere (sic) Society of Philadelphia, the oldest, English-speaking Shakespearean society in existence. Phil Wagner, dean of the society, gave an informative talk to the Right Angle Club about the society which, although isn't a secret organization, doesn't do much in the way of advertising its existence. Indeed, one of our own, George Fisher, is a long-time member of the Society and, according to Mr. Wagner, a person who always has thought provoking views and opinions (on everything, not just the topic at hand) but hasn't gone too out of his way to extol the virtues of membership.

The Society was founded in 1851 and incorporated in 1861. The original group of men enjoyed nothing more than reading the Bard's works and discussing the rich language which was unlike any that came before, the various interpretations that could be applied, the insights into humanity and the wonderful, if sometimes preposterous, stories. That continues to describe the membership to this day. There's nothing too insignificant not to spend time on, and that reflects the tenor of each of the Wednesday night meetings held from October through April, twelve in all. Members are from all disciplines, many of them well-known doctors, lawyers and other professionals, but all share the love of the phrases that . Several of the men are second- generation members and the range in age is 30-ish to over 90. Other than a pre-determined set of readings for the year, the meetings don't have a specific format other than to discuss/debate every nuance of each piece. Good fellowship along with good scholarship would seem to be a good motto.

At one time the meetings were hosted by a single member who was responsible for not only reserving the venue but planning the dinner, paying for it and running the evening's activities. It's a group activity nowadays with four or five of the men teaming up to do the job. Although the Society's primary focus is on reading Shakespeare's works, there's a good deal of advocacy and discussion for the well done stage and film productions that are growing quite prolific in the Philadelphia region. An annual dinner is also organized with member's mates and significant others being invited, sort of like us Right Anglers. A glass of port always follows the meal but the cigars have fallen by the wayside for the most part.

There are many ways to spell Shakespeare but only one is recognized as being correct – at least by any spell-checker you'll come across. You'll notice that it's spelled as Shakspere by the Society. That's because there's a copy of a last will and testament in existence; and that's how he signed it… seems like a pretty good reason for that "incorrect" format.

(1628)

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