Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why Shakespeare?

In as much that literary criticism is an art and not a science, then the statement -- Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all history -- can be said to be a subject fact. Among the urban literary critics of today it is often fashionable to say that Shakespeare is just a dead old white man who no longer has anything to say. I would disagree with this theory. It can be shown that no other writer has informed what we are as Americans and really all the peoples of this planet. Or as Harold Bloom wrote in his book, The Invention of the Human Being,We need to exert ourselves and read Shakespeare as strenuously as we can, while knowing that his plays will read us more energetically still.”

When we think of young love we think of Romeo and Juliet.

In his inaugural speech President Obama said, “this winter of our hardship." Shakespeare had Richard III say in his opening lines, "Now is the winter of our discontent." President Obama is educated in Western thought and he would know this line and he used it the same way Shakespeare used it.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

The House of York has regained the throne. The House of York is now the shining sun. Long live the King. President Obama and the Democrats are bringing warmth to the dark cold season of the Bush administration. A historian or future playwright will speak to the validity of this allusion.

So again. Why Shakespeare? Because--if we know Shakespeare then we can understand what motivates people.

If we read Macbeth, Richard III or Henry the VI then we can understand the evil of corrupt and weak governments.

In watching Henry V we will see the duality of war in our culture and understand that it is both heroic and devastating. We can gain knowledge of leadership and motivate ourselves and others to higher goals. “Once more into the breach, dear friend, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead.”

Our role in nature from As You Like It--“and this our life, exempt from public haunts, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

How we relate to race and religion can be seen in Othello and The Merchant of Venice.

And I will say in Shakespeare’s plays the battle of the sexes was fairly fought and not always won by a man.

Perhaps as in the last words of Prospero from The Tempest, “let your indulgence set me free.” If it is time to set the old guard free, then let that last old dead white man that you listen to be Shakespeare--hold on to him as long as you can.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shakespeare Reading Challenge 2011

I am part of the Shakespeare Reading Challenge  2011 being hosted by Elena
http://shakespearereadingchallenge.blogspot.com/2010/11/shakespeare-reading-challenge-2011.html here are the reviews of my reading  challenge.

For February I read “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and the “Tragedy of Coriolanus,”  I like both plays.  I think that the people involved, both the government and opposition, in the recent uprisings in Africa and Middle East would be well served to read Coriolanus and learn from it

Measure For Measure
“Measure for Measure” gives credence to the Ben Johnson quote that Shakespeare “was not for an age, but for all time.”   It is a play about a government becoming involved in the personal lives of its citizens, which is also a critical discussion in America today. I cannot help but believe that like Angelo, the villain of the play,  America’s leaders are not willing to follow the laws that they make.
As an aside,  I was reading “Measure for Measure” on my Barnes and Noble Nook (a digital reader) when it broke.  While waiting for it to be repaired I have finished reading the play on a very old leather-bound copy of the completed works.  I found that when reading the book it was easier to go back and forth through the play. It is nice when you cannot remember a character to just flip to the start and review the Dramatis Personae.  I also find that the feeling of a book creates a better reading experience. But with my Nook I can carry all of Shakespeare plus hundreds of other writers in my hand.  Also the old book fell apart as I read it but unlike my Nook, I can repair the loose pages and binding  with ot sending it off for repair.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
I have read all but a few of Shakespeare’s plays and this play is one.  I would say, as one of Shakespeare’s later works, that it is not his best as proven by how little this play is performed.  It is melodramatic. The hero of the play Pericles, gives the control of his life to the fates, unlike Shakespeare’s heroic figures such as Henry V  or the tragic hero Macbeth.  For good or bad, these
characters struggle against the problems they find themselves in, even if they created the problem to start with.
Two of the plays roles mimic characters from Shakespeare’s earlier works, Henry V’s chorus becomes Gower  and Lady Macbeth becomes Dionyza but with much less success.  The poetry at times is good but generally it seems to be composed of the  most convenient rhymes only to trudge the play forward, not to create the scintillating language that we read in other plays.  The play, it seems to me, was written just to make a little money.  surmise that the play was written by another playwright and that Shakespeare only added his name and a little polish.
However, I would very much like to see the play just  to see how the sailing ship sets are built and how the storm scenes are performed.
My next reading
will be Two Gentlemen of Verona