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Much Ado About Shakespeare: A Meme

shakespeareGautami tagged me for a meme on Shakespeare. The timing is perfect with my Shakespeare series.

What was your first introduction to William Shakespeare? Was it love or hate?
Primary school in Hong Kong, around fifth grade. In addition to the texts on English grammar and usage, we had dreaded these progressive reader series in which some of the titles are stories adopted from Shakespearean plays, retold by editors. I read Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet. Can you imagine the school board make innocent fifth graders read the most tragic of any love story?

Which Shakespeare plays have you been required to read?
Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade, Othello in 10th, Hamlet in 11th. To my utter surprise, AP English in 12th spared us from Shakespeare. In college, I took a Shakespeare class (English 117 at Berkeley) that required As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Tempest, and Macbeth. Readings for that class took up all my time that one semester! I’ve got a copy of Four Tragedies on my nightstand. It’s way more enjoyable to read on my own pace.

Do you think Shakespeare is important? Do you feel you are a “better” person for having read the bard?
I never thought I’m a better person just because I’m reading anything that is obscure or classics, maybe I’m more erudite and conquering as a reader. Different strokes for different folks. Nobody could dispute Shakespeare’s influence in English literature. One may find even the entire existing vocabulary of his language limiting to his creative consciousness; Shakespeare often did, and so on occasion created his own form of grammar and vocabulary, much of which has since become common use. (A few examples of these would be the words “amazement”, “dislocate”, “premeditated”, “dexterously”, “windle”,”lackluster,” using the masculine singular pronoun�”his” for “its” �now used for poetic effect, and using some nouns as verbs, such as “he childed as I fathered.”). Few modern writers have such skill as to create new words which “stick” in our language, or to write in such a way that their words become common usage centuries later. By using just the right combination of words, or by conjuring just the right image, Shakespeare authored countless passages and entire plays so powerful, poignant, comedic, tragic, and romantic that many are still being routinely memorized and performed today, nearly four centuries later.

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
Macbeth for tragedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for comedy.

How do you feel about contemporary takes on Shakespeare? Adaptations of Shakespeare’s works with a more modern feel? (For example, the new line of Manga Shakespeare graphic novels, or novels like Something Rotten, Something Wicked, Enter Three Witches, Ophelia, etc.) Do you have a favorite you’d recommend?
I haven’t read any of these books so I’m not in a position to comment.

What’s your favorite movie version of a Shakespeare play?
I have’t seen much of the film adaptation. But I like the 1996 Twelfth Night with Imogen Stubbs.

Further Reading:
Shakespeare Series (1): A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Shakespeare Series (2): Twelfth Night

4 Responses

  1. Great meme! I think I’ll snag this one for use in the next few days. I fell madly in love with Shakespeare when I was about 15 years old, and while I haven’t read any of the Bard’s stuff in a very long time, occasionally I feel an urge to dive back in.

  2. I was introduced to Shakespeare in High School. I was required to read Hamlet and the Merchant of Venice, and I liked both of them very much, mostly because of the use of language — the hermeneutics stymied me at the time, though I’ve improved a little at that in the last 50 years. I never studied Shakespeare subsequently except for several of the sonnets which, again, were part of an English literature course I took as a Freshman in college. I think experience in life is what makes us better or worse people, but literature and great drama and the ideas and thoughts the engender can be an important influence and can have a genuine impact on the formative processes; literature allows us to share the experience of others in important and powerful ways. It’s hard to find one favorite play, but I’d say Hamlet for tragedy and Twelfth Night for comedy; there are many others running very close. I like the Laurence Olivier adaptations very much. I have quite a few of the BBC adaptations on DVD; they are excellent and are less pared down than some of the feature film releases.

  3. I liked these questions so much I did the meme today at http://necromancyneverpays.blogspot.com.

  4. Thanks for doing this. Love your responses.

    If you don’t know I write poetry on my other blog. (Click on my name to reach there!). I started structured poetry with sonnets. Shakespearean ones. Hence I made myself read those fairly recently, that is 3 years back. Before that I only read his plays.

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