[Book Babbles] Celebrating Shakespeare

Finally, the Internet connection at home is up and running again! And I shall celebrate by posting something a bit of a long babble about a guy everyone knows (and he celebrated his 450th birthday last month).

Ah, Shakespeare. A staple in the world of literature. He stands the test of time, doesn’t he?

Macbeth was the first of The Bard’s plays that I’ve ever read (and bought). I was forced required to read it when I was 11. It was what I was assigned to report about in front of class. Here’s the smell of the blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!” – These lines will forever be ingrained in my memory.

I read Hamlet after, I think because that was next on the reading list. That was such a chore for an 11-year-old. Then, The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet… for which I just basically relied on the class reporters, Cliff’s Notes, and skipped reading most of the content because I could barely understand Shakespeare’s words. Too much processing for my little brain. Daunting, really. It made me feel a bit like a simpleton.

To-Bee-or-not-to-Bee

 To bee or not to bee…


In high school, they made us read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, The Tempest and Romeo & Juliet (again).  I can’t really remember. I only remember Midsummer clearly because our class had to perform it. But I evaded the task of memorizing lines because I volunteered to be part of the backstage team taking care of lighting, sound, and effects. It wasn’t until college that I had to read one again. Othello was my professor’s pick. I kinda liked it, actually. Thank goodness it was just one Shakespeare (I majored in science, so I didn’t really have a lot of subjects that delved into the world of literature)

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Shakespeare. I just find his work such a challenge to read (much more challenging than Tolkien methinks). I liked the stories, but the text intimidated me, and I felt a bit foolish for not being able to completely understand the lines. And it was a play. I really don’t have much affinity for reading plays. They kinda bore me.  I very much prefer narratives. That said, I preferred reading Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. So in a way, I have read a fair amount of Shakespeare’s stuff. Only in simpler words and in prose. (A bit like cheating, is it?)

much-ado-about-nothing-posterOne of my favorite romantic comedies to re-watch is She’s the Man (which is based on Twelfth Night) because it never fails to make me laugh over and over again. Over the past few days, I’ve been on a Shakespeare binge. It started when I watched Much Ado About Nothing, first the Joss Whedon film (which is alright), then the very amusing West End stage production top billed by David Tennant and Catherine Tate (via Digital Theatre – I wish I could’ve seen it live!). I enjoyed the latter so much it made me want to read the play. Yes, I’ve read the story in condensed prose form, but now it’s probably time to brave the full text. And so I ventured into reading what little of Shakespeare’s works I own and decided to watch a few more plays/films.

I tend to prefer watching the film/stage adaptations before reading it because it allows me to not doze off on the text. For me, an actor’s delivery of the lines and acting make all the difference. Well, they are plays after all; meant to be performed and seen onstage. And I much prefer watching Shakespeare’s plays than reading them. I never really found Much Ado amusing, until I watched David Tennant as Benedick (though it may also be because I like Tennant, but I like to think I can be subjective in my assessment of the play).  I also favor Shakespeare’s comedies over the tragedies, perhaps because there are more shenanigans going on. Not much of a fan of the historical plays.

I think what inspired me to read Shakespeare’s plays this time is that I’m doing so willingly. No one is forcing me to analyze the text and recite in class. No one is grading me on my opinion or interpretation. No pop quiz about the story and characters. No exam after reading the book.  I’m trying to look up what the lines mean because I’m curious, not because I’m required to.

I shall indulge in a Shakespeare-inspired series of posts here and there over the next few weeks. With my limited ability to churn out intelligent critiques, I warn you that by no means will they be detailed, analytical, or written in an intellectual manner. Just basically a short narrative based on how I felt and (foolish) opinions on the story and characters while reading the books.

What’s your take on Shakespeare?

 

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