Wednesday, August 3, 2016
The Year in Shakespeare: August 2016
My university's 2000-level Shakespeare class renewed my passion for Shakespeare's work and all things Shakespearean adaptation, riff, and remix (well, somewhat. I have a lot of opinions and my mileage varies). Regardless, the class was a fantastic dip into the majority of Shakespeare's work; the year-long class covered a large swath of the tragedies, comedies, and history plays (with a soupçon of poetry).
I'm not really a completist in other areas of my life. I like what I like, am juggling two careers and three mental illnesses (which is to say that keeping my shit relatively together is another full-time job). But with so much of it under my belt, I figured, why not try to complete it?
I've read all of the tragedies except for Timon of Athens and all of the history plays save for Henry VIII and King John. That left me with a metric fuck-ton (not a real unit of measurement) of the comedies to read in 2016.
So far, I've read: The Comedy of Errors, Measure for Measure, All's Well That Ends Well, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, all thanks to the Folger Digital Texts archive.
These covers are pretty but digitization is convenient!
Of these, Measure for Measure was my definite favorite; my preference for Shakespearean tragedy made the "problem play" automatically pique my interest, and I was rewarded with an execution plot, moral and existential questioning, and gallows humor.
Conversely, The Merry Wives of Windsor was one of the silliest things I've ever read, in any genre (this includes longform articles about juggalo culture). Reportedly written because the Queen wanted a "Falstaff love story", this play delivers that, and more. Spoilers, but, Falstaff gets his comeuppance when he's tricked into thinking other characters are fairies.
I don't really have much to say about The Comedy of Errors and All's Well That Ends Well. They were perfectly serviceable Shakespearean comedies and probably more fun in performance than on the page - reading Shakespeare is always a delight, but sometimes it does take seeing it performed for it to become magical.
Hopefully, I'll get a chance to read more comedies, explore the apocrypha, and see a performance by local troupe Shakespeare By The Sea. Until then, rest you merry!