I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:
Okay, show of hands … who has read Shakespeare OUTSIDE of school required reading? Do you watch the plays? How about movies? Do you love him? Think he’s overrated?
I only read Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet in high school, and I read under time’s constraint. I always thought Romeo & Juliet was very clichéd and I never cared for it. Hamlet was read as an exercise of in-depth character study in 11th grade. Taming of the Shrew was the first book I read outside of school—and it was years after high school that I picked it up.
The Taming of the Shrew has a powerful appeal for the Elizabethan audience at the time it opened because the struggle for mastery in a marriage remained a fact of existence and hot topics for writers. A true-to-life domestic scene opens the play and instantly grasps attention: Signor Baptista forbids all suitors to court his younger daughter Bianca until he finds a husband for the ill-tempered, difficult, and waspish elder daughter Katherina. It’s one of Shakespeare’s more rhetorical work.
I was concerned that A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be a reprise of Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare nudges the story to a direction in which the style does not involve the audience too snuggly in the lovers’ emotions. The love entanglement engenders enough body and reference to larger concepts to be viewed as image of some universal human experience: one so true-to-life that it inevitably and in no time provokes sympathy.
Twelfth Night has a whimsical plot. It addresses a subtler and yet precarious issue in the situation of identical twins teetering on the risk of being mistaken. Identical twins are automatically ripped off their uniqueness, the unmistakable self. The broad appeal of Twelfth Night as a good-humored play is sharpened by its comedy of mistaken identity between the long-lost twins Sabastian and Viola. Although they are of different sexes, other characters in the play cannot distinguish them from one another when Viola disguises as a young man.