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?