The great bard, William Shakespeare, was an inspiration behind an event that was not afraid to approach the absurd before veering dramatically in the direction of the wonderful, with a flypast of a squadron of Mary Poppins over child patients bouncing on hospital beds to the tunes of Tubular Bells being one – but only one – of the moments that marked a spectacular night.
The occasion was graced by a visit from the Queen, resounded to a speech by Seb Coe, now an Olympic legend as a participant and an organiser, and echoed to the music of the London Symphony Orchestra, Arctic Monkeys, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sir Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Emeli Sande, and that wee rascal called Dizzee.
There were also contributions from Kenneth Branagh and JK Rowling as the creative force of artistic director Danny Boyle played on the theme of The Tempest. As Shakespeare wrote: "Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises." It was last night.
The Red Arrows were the first incongruous tempest as they screamed over an astonishing pastoral scene that involved carthorses, windmills and clouds guided around the arena by means of lines attached to strolling players. It was surreal. It became even more surreal.
How about Mr Bean playing the theme tune to Chariots of Fire? How about Mr Bean being in Chariots of Fire and sprinting along a beach in St Andrews?
Boyle's greatest film as a director was Trainspotting, a film with more than a hint of heroin. There was a suspicion last night there was something in the waters of the Thames as audience and cast conspired to be entranced by a field in the centre of the arena that was more verdant than strawberry and scenes that were both inventive and humorous in a production that came with a price tag that ranged from £27m towards the very heavens of finance.
There was the Sex Pistols's God Save the Queen, Daniel Craig as James Bond meeting the Queen, played very well by the Queen, and A Flower of Scotland and much, much more.
Watch a clip of James Bond escorting the Queen to the opening ceremony.
However, this was, in a strange essence, England. And it was Jerusalem too. This was a hymn to a green and pleasant land and it was brought to life by 600 dancers who all work for the National Health Service, a cast of celebrities and the 80,000 crowd that used individual pixels, panels mounted behind their seats that sparkled and shone in the very English evening drizzle.
There was also, of course, the livestock. There were 40 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs. The partridge in a pear tree was posted missing.
A bout of communal singing, almost panto style, preceded a show that a compere insisted would "make sense as the night went on". Such was its sheer exuberance, its boundless ambition, that it hardly mattered if understanding was an occasional victim on the night.
The show opened with Bradley Wiggins, the winner of the Tour de France, banging a bell to announce to a soundtrack of Jersusalem in the stadium, Londonderry Air from the Giant's Causeway, Flower of Scotland from Edinburgh Castle and Bread of Heaven from Rhossili Beach, Wales. All played out to great moments from each of the four nations' rugby history, with Scotland represented by Tony Stanger's try from the 1990 Grand Slam triumph.
This crashed around the stadium as the English country scene evoked days when children were safe at play and the summers were always warm. Branagh then intoned Caliban's speech from The Tempest as the narrative moved smoothly along like the nearby Thames.
There were homages to Brunel and Wind in the Willows and pandemonium broke out with a celebration of the Industrial Revolution with Dame Evelyn leading a huge volunteer force in a tempest of percussion as huge smokestacks arose in the centre of the arena.
Olympic rings were forged and rose high over the field as tribute was paid in poppy to the First World War fallen – the representation of all war dead – and political evolution was charted through suffragettes and trade unionists.
There was then a break for the traditional as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, entered the stadium as members of the armed forces raised the Union flag. The national anthem was sung by the Kaos Signing Choir.
Then this determinedly singular production lurched forward into what were described as two of Britain's greatest achievements: children's literature and the National Health Service. The incongruity of Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Harry Potter beside the NHS was wilfully brushed aside. This was a night for celebration not comprehension.
The sight and sound of JK Rowling reading the opening paragraph of JM Barrie's Peter Pan may have seemed incongruous, but by the time this show had travelled mere minutes one knew that nothing was out of bounds on Boyle's field of dreams.
By the time the creative director was conjuring up Britain's cinematic history – from Laurel and Hardy to Gregory's Girl – the effect was of being in a giant, strange, moving but odd film.
Matters then moved from filmic to a recreation of a family Saturday night before Boyle got on his bike in praise of the two-wheeled transport with 75 "dove bikes" being released. These were inspired by the words of the naturalist Louis Helle who said: "Bicycling is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds."
If all this seems as mad as a bag of famished eagles, presumably without bicycling clips, it worked as a spectacle, even if its purpose was harder to divine.
All this Technicolor eccentricity preceded the scheduled speeches from Lord Coe and the official opening of the Games.
The formalities seemed to come from another world. As the crowd prepared for the advent of the athletes and the lighting of the torch, there was a sense of stunned awe, perhaps even bewilderment about all that had occurred on a little corner of London that is forever England.
Boyle, in a brief speech before he unleashed a creation that was like some benevolent Frankenstein, insisted the most important people on the night were the athletes. This was his only concession to the predictable before he quoted Billy Connolly, saying: "I don't believe in God but I believe in people who do."
One sort of knows what Boyle meant. One sort of knows what he wanted to achieve last night.
The Olympic arena was the centre of attraction for hundreds of millions of viewers last night but it defied a single rational analysis. This is by no means a bad thing. After all: All the world's a stage.
And all the men and women merely players. The athletes now carry the baton of drama after a night of extraordinary theatre.