Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mini Reviews

I'm not really up for long reviews right now, unfortunately, but I do want to record my recent reading.

16. All's Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare

I'd never read this one before, and I think it's a new favorite. Helena is hopelessly in love with Bertram, the son of her mistress. When Bertram goes to serve the king, he laments the illness of his soon-to-be master. Helena, a physician's daughter, concocts a plan. She will cure the king and, in exchange, ask for Bertram's hand in marriage. Her plan is successful, but Bertram is not pleased. He marries her at the king's behest, but quickly escapes to be a soldier in Italy, refusing to consummate the marriage. He tells Helena he will love her when she wears his ring and bears his child. Well, no impossible task for plotting like the Bard's!

What I loved about this play was an even more sophisticated than usual use of language in discussing and contemplating themes of the true virtues of virginity, the inconstancy of men, nature vs. nurture, the true value of blood and the truth about fate.

17. Mary, Queen of Scots by Friedrich Schiller

I see why this play is so emblematic. Schiller presents both queens, Mary and Elizabeth, strongly and so, amazingly (in my opinion) accurately and realistically. His monologues are a little grandiose and perhaps contrived, but their eloquence is powerful. I could see this play having a strong effect on an audience.

And he just has all these little touches, every character reacts and speaks the way I would imagine, and while I don't think Leicester really had such tender feelings for Mary, Schiller makes it realistic.

I don't see this as a martyr piece altogether, or at least not all on Mary's side. This is a play about how to solve an impossible question: when two queens have a mandate to rule, how can they both exist at the same time?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March Madness?

16. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

So March has been crazy busy for me, as evidenced by the lack of posts. Also, for the first half of March, I literally didn't manage to finish reading anything in full. Now I'm back on track, and I can now say I've read Twelfth Night, which the movie Shakespeare in Love had me geared up for.

So, we've got some familiar plot points, a girl dressed as a boy, twins lost at sea and separated, unrequited love, and ridiculous servants. This is the first Clown in Shakespeare, I think, so Feste is a forerunner of Touchstone. We've got Sir Toby Belch, the uncouth uncle, who actually isn't quite like anyone I've seen before, he's a touch of villain and fool both. Our prof showed us the most recent film version, a modernized take, and the scene with Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste jamming out is fantastic and fits so well with the music in the play.

This play seems to me to be more lighthearted than most of them, but again there's hints of tragedy in Viola's love for Orsino and Olivia's for Cesario and I think you can play it as either ridiculous or serious. That's the thing with plays. I enjoyed the clever female servant Maria. Notice how the women in Shakespeare's comedies always come off looking best? Except, perhaps, Titania. But when it comes to love, the lady gets her choice , whether the man likes it or no. What does this mean? That women make better choices or are simply better at getting their way?

In any case, an enjoyable jaunt that blends in with the other comedies.

On a sidenote, I saw my school's production of Richard III last night, and it reminded me that nearly all the quotes on my Shakespearean Insults mug are from that play, including, "thou lump of foul deformity," and "thou elvish-mark'd abortive rooting hog." I was really impressed with the set, a grand staircase with a throne above, columns, and fake stained glass and it was used well, with a lot of very interesting and significnat staging and costuming. Unfortunately, the actors (and incidentally men played women and women played men, which I didn't think either added or took away much), were mostly not up to the task. They demonstrated understanding of the language, but didn't use it with a wide or sensible range of emotional dexterity and in more than one case lacked emotions appropriate to the scene. Especially Richard, as played, was not sympathetic enough. He's a difficult character to make sympathetic obviously, but there are lines and subtext in the play that explain him and it wasn't played up enough. Now I want to see it with real professional actors.