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"Can one desire too much of a good thing?" As You Like It, Act IV, sc. 1.

I have to tell you, I've been enjoying myself immensely as I prepare for a month of Shakespeare-related posts. Come June, there will be much ado about Shakespeare here at Writing & Ruminating.

That being so, I've been doing homework, a word which here means 1. shopping; 2. watching DVDs; 3. reading plays, poems and biographies.

I thought I'd clue you in to some of the place I will definitely be talking about in June, just in case you want to wrestle up a copy and read it ahead of time. So we can have a discussion, like.

Here are some of the plays I'll be talking about for sure:

These comedies:

As You Like It: Cross-dressing Rosalind is one of my favorite Shakespearean heroines, the coarse country girl Audrey has one of the funniest lines I've ever heard, and the melancholy Jacques delivers the "All the world's a stage" monologue. With a quadruple wedding at the end.

Love's Labour's Lost: One of the Bard's earliest plays, and one that appears wholly original, with no prior theatrical model; it's been called "flamboyantly intellectual" for good reason, with nearly every character having an extraordinarily sharp tongue (and skill in its use), and a completely original ending. I've recently read it for the first (and second) time and am excited to chat about it.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Probably related to "The Knight's Tale" from Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer; it includes star-crossed lovers, fairies, and an amateur theatrical. Like Love's Labour's Lost, it has no known prior theatrical source.

Much Ado About Nothing: Sharp-tongued Beatrice and sharp-witted Benedick are tricked into romance while the wicked Don John sets out to make mischief in the pending nuptials between Claudio and Hero. Contains what may be my favorite line of Shakespeare ever.

Twelfth Night, or, What You Will: Just as during the revels on Twelfth Night, things are not always what they seem - cross-dressing Viola, mistaken identities, a wise fool, a foolish manservant, and a double wedding; who could want more?

These tragedies:

Hamlet: The Prince of Denmark comes home to find that all is not well; he seeks revenge on his murderous uncle, and pretty much everyone ends up dead by the end. It sounds dark and dour, but contains some of the most sparkling (and most thoughtful, thought-provoking) lines penned by Shakespeare.

King Lear: One I haven't yet read. Lear wants to retire and leave his kingdom to the daughter who loves him best; the two bad daughters confess love, the good daughter is disowned, and then everything goes completely, horribly wrong. Nearly every one dies. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Macbeth: The shortest of Shakespeare's tragedies; and one involving murder most foul - the regicide of Duncan at the hand of Macbeth and his Lady. More murders and deaths accrue, until a final bloody showdown. Some of the best quotes come from this play, to say nothing of the existence of the Weird Sisters (sometimes called witches). In theatre circles, this is often referred to as "the Scottish play" due to superstitions involving a curse involving doom and death.

Othello: Featuring a person of color, a wife who speaks a line after her death, manipulation and deception, and one of the most evil villains in Shakespeare - Iago. As in the case of most tragedies, a commendable pile of bodies accumulates.

Romeo and Juliet: Young lovers, thwarted by warring families, meet, marry and end up dead in the space of, like, 5 days. Much to love about this play, and much to abuse as well.

And these histories:

Henry V: Oh, the St. Crispin's Day speech! "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers" *swoon* I fell in love with this one when I saw the movie version starring Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson, and I never looked back.

Richard III: Another play I've not yet read; it is second only to Hamlet in length. The lead role is an envious hunchback, who plots against the king and locks up Edward IV's sons in the Tower of London. Eventually (after many deaths and wrongs), Richard III is killed.

Also in the works, discussion of sonnets and other poems, of course. I'm reading from the start of the Sonnets all the way through, and haven't yet picked out the ones I'll be discussing.

Kiva - loans that change lives




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Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
lizjonesbooks
May. 25th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
Excellent!! I'll have to look up Audrey and her line... and had *no* idea that Midsummer was influenced by Canterbury tales! Can't wait to read more!
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
Audrey's line that I love is "I am not a slut, though I thank the gods I am foul."
lizjonesbooks
May. 25th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
:o)
That's a keeper alright!
Richard III, though--- *shudder*
Admittedly I saw that, along with Lear, at a very vulnerable point in my life.
(would have been even more traumatic, except my English prof's lovely British wife served us a giant apricot sticky bun and tea afterward. That made up for a lot)
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
As I said, I've not yet read either play, but I know they are counted among his finest work. Richard III has the unfortunate "benefit" of being roughly true, and is part of the chapter of English history known as the War of the Roses (house of Lancaster v. house of York, I believe? Must bone up on my British history!)

Thanks heavens for apricot sticky buns and tea.
tessagratton
May. 25th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
Looking for Richard with Al Pacino (among many others) is one of the most amazing Shakespeare movies ever. It's about the play, about producing the play, about the language and everything. It's wonderful. I highly recommend it.
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Ooh! I remember wanting to see that when it was first out, only my kids were very little and I was getting a divorce and well, I missed it. I will definitely hunt it down and watch it. Thanks, Tessa!
beckylevine
May. 25th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
This is going to be fun. If we're allowed to make requests, I'd love to hear something about Gertrude. I've always figured there's more there than I'm seeing...
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
Wow - special requests for individual characters! *does a happy dance* People are actually going to read my posts. Squee!

Will contemplate Gertrude, who must be more than a horny widow, yes?
beckylevine
May. 25th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
I so want her to be more than that, yes!
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
I make no promises at present, since I've not yet re-read (and rewatched) Hamlet yet. I shall pay particular attention to the women-folk in the play, however, as I'm concerned with Ophelia as well.
reginaclarejane
May. 25th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC)
Oh, Kelly- I can't wait! It's actually been quite a long time since I've read anything of Shakespeare so this will be a real treat!
Thanks so much!
:)
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC)
I hope you'll find a bit of something to read along - it will be fun, I think, to look at the Bard for a while. The more of his work I read, the more I want to read. It's not the worst thing that could happen.
robinellen
May. 25th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
Did you know that I've yet to read MacBeth? It's the only one of his plays that I've never read or studied.
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC)
You have me beat by a lot, then - I've never read Henry IV or Henry VIII or Coriolanus or Antony & Cleopatra or Titus Andronicus or The Merchant of Venice or Two Gentlemen of Verona or Lear or Richard III (both of which are being remedied) or Measure for Measure or the full play of The Winter's Tale (I've read Bruce Coville's abridged picture story book version, which was a summary). And that's just off the top of my head.

Macbeth, however, I've read two or three times, and I really and truly love that play. It's got some really amazing lines in it.
robinellen
May. 25th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Oops -- I've never even heard of the The Winter's Tale -- so I obviously haven't read that, either ;) I took a Shakespeare course in college which covered comedies and histories; in high school, I took a course which covered the tragedies -- but MacBeth wasn't in that one, for some reason. I've read/studied Hamlet, Othello, R&J, and MoV numerous times.
kellyrfineman
May. 25th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
Funny that you've never read Macbeth, since it's the shortest of the tragedies.

The Winter's Tale contains one of the best and funniest stage directions ever: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

It is sometimes classified as a comedy, sometimes as a romance, and (quite possibly) sometimes as a "problem play." The king thinks the queen is cheating, and then believes her dead. He wants her child killed, but the child is taken in by kindly folks. Years later, the child returns and the king learns that his wife (whom he has since learned was innocent) is not dead after all. It has some components of a comedy, but some of tragedy as well. Hence the mixed appellation.
p_sunshine
May. 26th, 2009 03:37 pm (UTC)
Ack. I can't remember if there's a wedding at the end of this one. I just remember the statue coming back to life and the end and thinking woah... this is fantastic. But if there isn't one, then yeah, I have no idea where this fits - my theatre director's view of Shakespeare was:
Comedy - wedding at the end
Tragedy - everybody dies
History - either or both
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
Some commentators call it a "romance", others call it a "problem play" because it defies characterization under the everyone dies/everyone marries classification system. (The histories tended to be based on actual historical figures, in addition to the either or both designation.)
writerjenn
May. 25th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
Every time I sit down with the sonnets, I get happily lost in them--you can't read just one!

"Nearly every dies. I'm looking forward to reading it." *chortle*
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 12:33 am (UTC)
The sonnets are rather like potato chips that way.

And what can I say, I love a good Shakespearian drama, where everyone ends up dead.
jessica_shea
May. 26th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
This is very inspiring! I think now I have to read the ones I've seen but not read: As You Like It, Love's Labours Lost, Twelfth Night, Henry V. I think Much Ado might be my favorite comedy and Othello my favorite tragedy, but I like all the tragedies you listed a lot.
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
I only just read Love's Labour's Lost last week (damn, but that was alliterative). It is delightful because it's so witty - full of verbal sparring. And my research for the forthcoming blog post about it tells me it has a reputation for having the showiest display of wit and repartee of all his plays, which is indeed saying something.

I confess to not having truly loved the Brannagh pre-WWII musical version of the play, yet I'll track it down and watch it again because it's the only movie version I can find. I hope to catch it on stage, though - that would rock.
jessica_shea
May. 26th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
I saw the most amazing production of LLL at Shakespeare Theatre in DC--it was set in the 60s and the guys were these Beatles-esque hippies at an Indian ashram. The costumes were fab; the girls roared in on motorcycles in bell-bottoms. It was a really fun concept. *adds Branagh musical to Netflix queue*

dotificus
May. 26th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
You should watch Olivier's Richard III. Very creepy and compelling. Plus you get Ralph Richardson! And John Gielgud!
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
That is Sir John Gielgud, missy! (Heh. Like I truly care. Not.)

I shall look for it. I know it's reputed to be one of the best ever performances of Richard III. I'll probably check out Sir Ian McKellen's version as well, because I like him. And he has such versatility - he can be all cheerful & twinkly-eyed or dark and twisty, and I like him for that. His version is set in a fascist world. And has Robert Downey Jr. in it. And I haven't seen it, either.
dotificus
May. 26th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Ian McKellan's is awesome too, because he's always awesome. But my Olivier love goes way back-- I had a an actor crush on him in high school.
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Apropos of nothing - did you hear that they're planning to make a new Buffy movie but - get this - sans Joss Whedon (and, moreover, sans any of the characters he created, like Angel and Xander and more)? Is apparently true. The Whedonverse is in uproar, as one might imagine.
dotificus
May. 26th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
Holy CRAP! I did not know that. And gah! And bleah! And what an awful idea. My mind is boggled.
p_sunshine
May. 26th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Squee! Great list!
At some point, we'll have to discuss "A Winter's Tale" - but this is a huge undertaking, so probably way, way after this is finished. =)
kellyrfineman
May. 26th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
I may manage to get to A Winter's Tale during June, but I may not. I do so love the stage direction, "Exit, pursued by a bear." And it is one of those plays that defies easy categorization, which makes it interesting to look at.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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