People who say they don’t relate to or care for Shakespeare are unaware how he influences their lives. From everyday words from “assassination” to “zany” to common phrases such as “All that glitters is not gold,” Shakespeare is without a doubt one of the most enduring amongst influencers.
Even if Bard Bashers still won’t acknowledge Shakespearean influence, it’s difficult to ignore his sound life advice through some of his well-known quotes.
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be”
This Hamlet quote seems cryptic at first, yet deeper consideration initiates the idea that we may not truly understand our potential or that we see ourselves differently than how others see us.
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none”
This quote from “All’s Well That Ends Well” is a something one might hear in valedictorian speech or might see on a coffee mug. While it sounds trite, it’s actually a succinct guide to life.
“The course of true love never did run smooth”
A quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream reminds us all how love’s journey is one that is traveled by experiencing a few potholes, speed bumps, and delays due to construction.
“All’s well that ends well”
This eponymous quote is an encouragement to trust in hope, to believe it will all work out for the best.
So, whether you be in the Bard Bravo bunch or find yourself more of a Bard Basher, you have to admit Shakespeare handed out advice that is useful in life.
Today’s audiences talk about seeing a movie. And we are very much a visually oriented culture. Yet, in Shakespeare’s day audiences would say they were going to hear a play because language was such an integral aspect of their culture.
Shakespeare knew this, of course, which is why he wrote his plays with rhyme, rhythm, homonyms, laced with ambiguity. He wanted his audience to hear the auditory beauty of language.
Modern audiences are more accustomed (or have grown more accustomed to) sound bites—quick bits of communication. No wonder eye rolls and twitches are commonalities when someone mentions Shakespeare—we are no longer used to the longer, more developed portents of language. We want quick and easy auditory digestion instead of the languid delight of a language banquet. ‘Tis a shame, yet supping upon a Shakespeare play is possible with a bit of effort.
Shakespearean plays are written to be heard and the Stratford-Upon-Avon wordsmith created the means to better enjoy his words by employing the following:
1. Read the lines with deliberation and emphasis. For example, Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” does better with a slow pronounced repetition to emulate the tedious monotony of life.
2. Use punctuation as a guide by reading to the end stop rather to the end of the line it gives more meaning to the lines. This is known as enjambment, where the line overflows into the next line, much like a waterfall cascades flow smoothly creating movement. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Juliet pours out her emotions for Romeo in one rolling, passionate wave:
When he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night And pay no worship to the garish sun.
Reading this passage out loud, carrying one line over into the next enhances Juliet’s feelings for her Romeo.
3. Be aware of accented words, pronouncing them with an extra syllable. For example “perfume’d would be three syllables, not two. Shakespeare would have done this to enhance the meter or rhythm of the line. Plus, it has the bonus of sounding fancier.
4. Know that Shakespeare presented his words with intention to paint pictures (no access to CGI) with verbal cues to ignite his audience’s imagination. He needed his words to create imagery since scenery and props were minimal on the Elizabethan stage. For example, when Juliet says, “It was the nightingale, and not the lark,/ That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear,” she is in her wedding bed with Romeo—she is no doubt as close to him as her heartbeat.
Reading Shakespeare can be an enriching, delightful experience when his words are read out loud with considerate digestion.
THE DETAILS: Pages read: 29,532 Books read: 102 Shortest book read: 40 pages
Longest book read: 1,008 pages
Average book length: 289 pages Most popular: Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library–over 1 million reads (although I did not favor it) Least popular: Lucius Adelno Sherman’s What is Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Great Plays (not everyone appreciates Shakespeare) Average book rating: 4.3 (I must be particular) Highest rated by Goodreads readers:
First review of the year:One Hundred Years of Children’s Books in America, Decade by Decade edited by Jane Yolen and Marjorie N. Allen. An underrated and overlooked sampling of books and the history of America from the early 1800s to the 1990s–would like to see a more current edition. Five star rated books: 11 (I really am particular discerning)
Hitting my reading goal of 101 (the year isn’t over yet) creates a fine sense of accomplishment, especially since it became increasingly more difficult to sit down and focus on reading. After school started I found myself with a certain lassitude that gravitated towards passive viewing of animal shows, Western movies, and of course, my old standby of Dr. Who reruns.
Your Turn: Did you hit your reading goal for the year?
Any stand out reads? I’m always looking for the next TBR item.
Even though I read seventeen books last month, which keeps me at six books ahead of schedule, May’s five star reads were slim. There were several enjoyable reads, yet only one good read, or in this case a great read.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Published in 1948, Paton’s book became a recognized bestseller that still has relevance today. The story of two fathers, one an umfundisi, a native reverend of a poor district, and the other a white landholder who owns a successful farm, High Place. Each father loses their only son, one by the hand of the other, yet the sons’ death brings these men together during a time when racial tensions are rising to a concerning level. A searing portrayal of the pain of separation–separation of family, separation of traditional values, separation of people inhabiting the land, the country. This was a rereading as I wanted to teach it as a unit to my juniors. So far it’s been well received. Plus, I don’t mind having an excuse to familiarize myself with excellent literature.
Any of you read at least one really notable book in the month of May?
That’s a big oops. My carefully planned blogging schedule has blown up due to malaise. I admittedly got caught up in the Winter Slumps and thought about posting but didn’t. I did read, though, which helped keep me occupied during the looonnng evenings (dark at 4 pm is cruel). Spring is now here and that means sunshine has restored my energy levels.
In order to get caught up I will select the favorites reads from the last three months to review. These are all five star reads.
Once upon a time, in the land of Russia, lived a charming count by the name of Alexander Rostov. And while it might seem demeaning to compare A Gentleman in Moscow to a fairy tale, Towles has deftly tweaked all the elements of that endearing (and enduring) genre into a sophisticated story that is enthralling, entertaining, enlivening, and quite satisfying. The bonus is once I learned Kenneth Branagh was Rostov in the planned series, the enjoyment became doubled as Branagh fleshed out Rostov’s appearance in my mind’s eye. One of the best reads I’ve experienced in quite a long time
The Art of X Ray Reading reminds me of Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Both books prompt me to practice closely reading the book in hand. While Foster provides a magnifying glass, Clark provides a kaleidoscope to better see the rich colors within the writing. His choice of books are hit or miss with me, but he did touch on a couple of favorites that I will absolutely pay more attention to on the next reading. The writing lessons alone are worthwhile and are inspiring. I applied the X Ray lens to an AP Lang lesson and brought new meaning to the piece. I look forward to my next AP Literature class and seeing how students pick up The Great Gatsby clues. Makes me wish I could teach Creative Writing once again.
Shades of The Maltese Falcon drift through this tribute to the 1940’s detective novel. Instead of a tough private investigator who runs with fast women and drives a faster car, readers contend with the “Princess P.I., a savvy socialite who has earned a reputation for being one of the best in the business. At first the cliche phrases and situations were off-putting, that is until I accepted them as pastiche. A solid plot worthy of a Bogart film, intrigue and humor, and a double storyline create a fast-paced read and an anticipation for the second book.
An amazingly positive story of how one man turned trash into a treasury of music. The story and colorful illustrations blend and harmonize as the background story of Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra is told through Ada and her violin. Truly inspirational how beauty was found among the tons of garbage and how a dream became a reality that changed lives.
As a tribute to the recent passing of Beverly Cleary I grabbed Henry and Ribsy off the library shelf since she was an author I appreciated growing up. Granted, some of the situations and attitudes are a bit dated; however, kid and dog antics run true and are timeless.
When I first read F451 back in my twenties I no doubt appreciated Bradbury’s lyrical warning of a supposed future. This last read is a revisit due to both curiosity if it’s as good as I remember and because we are studying it as a class in AP Lang. Yes. It’s still as good. Wait–it’s much, much better due to Bradbury’s future coming fast upon us.
Books like The Borrowers, a tiny family in a big world, enthralled me as a child. Somehow, The Return of the Twelves, which echoes believing the unbelievable, escaped my reading attention. As an adult, and a “brontyfan,” I appreciate this story so much more. It’s rather a back door introduction for young readers to the brilliance of Charlotte and her Bronte siblings. The story itself is typical of the sixties, where children are precocious and are possessed of much more independence than their contemporary readers. Parents are presented as absent-minded, patronizing, or clueless of their children’s lives. Clarke’s story presents a likable cast of characters, particularly Max, who becomes protector of the Twelves or Young Men. His responses to their animation have a sense of verisimilitude as he both indeed at their existence while remaining fiercely protective of them. The plot cleverly provides the actions of the Twelves through a combination of the present and through Max’s imaginative efforts. At times the plot wobbles on timeworn, but will suddenly turn the corner with a refreshing twist. A satisfying read for those who like adventure and can still believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.
A quirky book difficult to place genre-wise. Love story? Quest? Mystery? Not muchly magical realism? In some ways it reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist in that an ordinary young man begins to discover the extraordinary by stepping out of his comfort zone. Love In Lower-Case explores how it is too easy to fall into a routine, desiring for a change and when change begins to happen, it is difficult to accept. A likable character, odd circumstances, a mysterious cat, an annoying stranger, and a Yoda neighbor all mix together for a satisfying, though not earthshaking weekend read.
I would like to think as a young reader I would have appreciated the skillfully crafted story of a young Jewish man who discovers that love is stronger than hate, especially when facing such a fearsome enemy as the Romans; however, I doubt that I would have. I am ever so impressed with The Bronze Bow—its plot, setting, details, message. And the ending. The ending is absolutely stunning. As an adult I am absolutely impressed and moved, and I would like think my young reader self might have recognized the value of Speare. Maybe.
So many good reads kept my wits from dullifying totally through this last long winter. I can’t imagine not having a book to read.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if I have tempted you to plump out your TBR list.
As much as I appreciate Shakespeare, I’m not keen on his historical plays. Maybe one has to be British to embrace the life and times of former sovereigns. Then again I’m not favored towards American leaders foregoing productions about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the crew. Lincoln, I would probably watch.
And so, hearing there is a contemporary production of the Richards and the Henrys featuring favorite actors ranging from David Suchet to Jeremy Irons to Tom Huddleston to Ben Whishaw, I am intrigued and ready to binge some Bard.
Richard II features Ben Whishaw and he cavorts with the style and aplomb of a rock star. Production notes indicate Michael Jackson was suggested inspiration. Whishaw deservedly earned his accolades for his performance as he drifts between petulance and dedicated sovereignty. The cinematography rivals that of big screen artistry, bringing a dimension to the play that a stage production never could. An absolutely riveting introduction to the series.
Next up is Prince Hal played by Tom Hiddleston, around the time he began his Avengers role as Loki. Hiddleston brings the winsome bad boy pluck that he channels in Loki to the role of heir apparent. He cavorts in taverns with thieves and prostitutes instead of winning fame and glory on the battlefield. Hal gives his dad King Henry IV, played exceedingly well by Jeremy Irons, ulcers of shame.
Part One focuses on how Prince Hal is slumming around with Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s more endearing anti-heroes played with vamp and veer by Simon Russell Beal. A notoriously likable scoundrel, Falstaff nearly ruins Prince Hal, who fortunately realizes he needs to shed the scalawag before he becomes king.
Part Two witnesses the coming of age of a wayward son into prince realizing his duties to crown and country. Stellar performances from all. Tom Hiddleston’s rejection of Falstaff is especially noteworthy as he coldly belays the sly knight’s claim upon him, breaking the old man’s heart, while stepping up to the role of honor required of him.
Henry V fortunately continues with Tom Hiddleston as king. Viewers see his growth as an impetuous swaggering tavern trawler to a victorious warrior whose Crispin Day speech incites tears as it is lovingly and personally delivered to individual soldiers under his command. This king can shout when he has to but can also project tenderness and caring to a peasant conscripted to fighting a war he does not comprehend. His death as a ruler came much too soon.
Each segment features a different director which brings a freshness and varying perspective to each play. The only hindrance is the lack of continuity of actors from part one to part two since Rory Kinnear is very different from Jeremy Irons in looks and acting style, as king, as are the other characters. It was indeed a bonus to have Hiddleston continue as Henry V.
Once again it is proven that Shakespeare is not of an age but for all time as this production proves the Bard is far from boring.
Thanksgiving break proved extra relaxed this year since no traveling was involved and no expected or unexpected company . The only obligation was making two pumpkin pies. Oh, with a side of Thanksgiving dinner.
Less demands meant more reading time. Check out the links to the Goodreads reviews. Here are November’s highlights:
Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Sometimes seeing the movie can spark an interest in the book. Of course the book was better. A brother and sister are shipped to the country as part of the WWII evacuation. No matter how many of these type of stories I read I continue to find each of them intriguing.
The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ The newest Appalachia story from Sarah. Her books are always provide an particular insight into the region based in some way a true story. In this case, the story revolves around a deaf boy and a murder mystery.
We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Based on a true story of a woman who gave birth while in an iron lung. A likable tale that transcends into an implausible fairy tale with a surprise appearance of Elvis.
My Daniel by Pam Conrad ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A story of the enduring bond between a brother and sister set during Nebraska’s early settler days. An added element is dinosaur fossil hunting.
Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Another older Newbery find. A young girl is sent to live with her spinster aunt when her mother dies. The catch is she has a family in town and they are all on good terms, which is unusual for a story plot. Not an orphan, definitely loved—the conflict? Which family is her true home?
My reading list is still filled with a composite of classics, Newbery titles, and new releases. My favorites tend to be the old Newbery winners. Nothing like solid writing from the past where the big problems of today were not in residence.
Shakespeare didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, at least in the modern day sense, but he did know how to give thanks most eloquently:
I express my own thanks. It will be a quiet Thanksgiving, yet there is a joyful noise within my heart that as difficult as this year has been it has been one in which I appreciate how much I can count on the Lord to be my light on those dark days.
May the joy of thanks be a member at your table this year, for there is always something to be thankful for.
With the first month of school squared away with its new expectations and schedule, I felt a bit more at leisure to read in the evenings.
I’m finishing up my foray into Newberry winners and I am discovering the older titles can definitely hold the attention. I am also trying to whittle down my TBR list, and at this point the titles left are going to be though my library’s inter-library loan system, unless they value my request enough to purchase (that is always a fun surprise).
Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
With the hour turned back the evening comes just that much sooner, and the lingering outside in the fading autumn afternoon warmth is less appealing as the shadows overtake my outdoor reading nooks. More reason to cozy up inside in my lounger and linger longer in my reading.