The Winter’s Tale ★★☆☆½

winterstale (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Winter’s Tale
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 256
Words: 74K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Following a brief setup scene the play begins with the appearance of two childhood friends: Leontes, King of Sicilia, and Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. Polixenes is visiting the kingdom of Sicilia, and is enjoying catching up with his old friend. However, after nine months, Polixenes yearns to return to his own kingdom to tend to affairs and see his son. Leontes desperately attempts to get Polixenes to stay longer, but is unsuccessful. Leontes then decides to send his wife, Queen Hermione, to try to convince Polixenes. Hermione agrees and with three short speeches is successful. Leontes is puzzled as to how Hermione convinced Polixenes so easily, and so he begins to suspect that his pregnant wife has been having an affair with Polixenes and that the child is Polixenes’. Leontes orders Camillo, a Sicilian Lord, to poison Polixenes. Camillo instead warns Polixenes and they both flee to Bohemia.

Furious at their escape, Leontes now publicly accuses his wife of infidelity, and declares that the child she is bearing must be illegitimate. He throws her in prison, over the protests of his nobles, and sends two of his lords, Cleomenes and Dion, to the Oracle at Delphos for what he is sure will be confirmation of his suspicions. Meanwhile, the queen gives birth to a girl, and her loyal friend Paulina takes the baby to the king, in the hopes that the sight of the child will soften his heart. He grows angrier, however, and orders Paulina’s husband, Lord Antigonus, to take the child and abandon it in a desolate place. Cleomenes and Dion return from Delphos with word from the Oracle and find Hermione publicly and humiliatingly put on trial before the king. She asserts her innocence, and asks for the word of the Oracle to be read before the court. The Oracle states categorically that Hermione and Polixenes are innocent, Camillo is an honest man, and that Leontes will have no heir until his lost daughter is found. Leontes shuns the news, refusing to believe it as the truth. As this news is revealed, word comes that Leontes’ son, Mamillius, has died of a wasting sickness brought on by the accusations against his mother. At this, Hermione falls in a swoon, and is carried away by Paulina, who subsequently reports the queen’s death to her heartbroken and repentant husband. Leontes vows to spend the rest of his days atoning for the loss of his son, his abandoned daughter, and his queen.

Antigonus, meanwhile, abandons the baby on the coast of Bohemia, reporting that Hermione appeared to him in a dream and bade him name the girl Perdita. He leaves a fardel (a bundle) by the baby containing gold and other trinkets which suggest that the baby is of noble blood. A violent storm suddenly appears, wrecking the ship on which Antigonus arrived. He wishes to take pity on the child, but is chased away in one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions: “Exit, pursued by a bear.” Perdita is rescued by a shepherd and his son, also known as “Clown”.

“Time” enters and announces the passage of sixteen years. Camillo, now in the service of Polixenes, begs the Bohemian king to allow him to return to Sicilia. Polixenes refuses and reports to Camillo that his son, Prince Florizel, has fallen in love with a lowly shepherd girl: Perdita. He suggests to Camillo that, to take his mind off thoughts of home, they disguise themselves and attend the sheep-shearing feast where Florizel and Perdita will be betrothed. At the feast, hosted by the Old Shepherd who has prospered thanks to the gold in the fardel, the pedlar Autolycus picks the pocket of the Young Shepherd and, in various guises, entertains the guests with bawdy songs and the trinkets he sells. Disguised, Polixenes and Camillo watch as Florizel (under the guise of a shepherd named Doricles) and Perdita are betrothed. Then, tearing off the disguise, Polixenes angrily intervenes, threatening the Old Shepherd and Perdita with torture and death and ordering his son never to see the shepherd’s daughter again. With the aid of Camillo, however, who longs to see his native land again, Florizel and Perdita take ship for Sicilia, using the clothes of Autolycus as a disguise. They are joined in their voyage by the Old Shepherd and his son who are directed there by Autolycus.

In Sicilia, Leontes is still in mourning. Cleomenes and Dion plead with him to end his time of repentance because the kingdom needs an heir. Paulina, however, convinces the king to remain unmarried forever since no woman can match the greatness of his lost Hermione. Florizel and Perdita arrive, and they are greeted effusively by Leontes. Florizel pretends to be on a diplomatic mission from his father, but his cover is blown when Polixenes and Camillo, too, arrive in Sicilia. The meeting and reconciliation of the kings and princes is reported by gentlemen of the Sicilian court: how the Old Shepherd raised Perdita, how Antigonus met his end, how Leontes was overjoyed at being reunited with his daughter, and how he begged Polixenes for forgiveness. The Old Shepherd and Young Shepherd, now made gentlemen by the kings, meet Autolycus, who asks them for their forgiveness for his roguery. Leontes, Polixenes, Camillo, Florizel and Perdita then go to Paulina’s house in the country, where a statue of Hermione has been recently finished. The sight of his wife’s form makes Leontes distraught, but then, to everyone’s amazement, the statue shows signs of vitality; it is Hermione, restored to life. As the play ends, Perdita and Florizel are engaged, and the whole company celebrates the miracle. Despite this happy ending typical of Shakespeare’s comedies and romances, the impression of the unjust death of young prince Mamillius lingers to the end, being an element of unredeemed tragedy, in addition to the years wasted in separation.

My Thoughts:

These Ancient History plays, based on Greek history stuff, bore the stuffing out of me. Plus, the characters act completely nonsensical.

Leontes going into his jealous rage for no reason, then suddenly repenting, it just pissed me off. Of course, he repents after his wife and son die and he has sent his newborn daughter to be killed by exposure. What a bastard.

While I’m always a sucker for a Redemption story, simply changing your mind about some extremely horribly bad behavior is NOT redemption. Gahhhhh, I’m really disliking this Shakespeare fellow at the moment.

★★☆☆½

Cymbeline ★★★☆☆

cymbeline (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Cymbeline
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 272
Words: 79K

 

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Cymbeline, the Roman Empire’s vassal king of Britain, once had two sons, Guiderius and Arvirargus, but they were stolen twenty years earlier as infants by an exiled traitor named Belarius. Cymbeline discovers that his only child left, his daughter Imogen (or Innogen), has secretly married her lover Posthumus Leonatus, a member of Cymbeline’s court. The lovers have exchanged jewellery as tokens: Imogen with a bracelet, and Posthumus with a ring. Cymbeline dismisses the marriage and banishes Posthumus since Imogen — as Cymbeline’s only child — must produce a fully royal-blooded heir to succeed to the British throne. In the meantime, Cymbeline’s Queen is conspiring to have Cloten (her cloddish and arrogant son by an earlier marriage) married to Imogen to secure her bloodline. The Queen is also plotting to murder both Imogen and Cymbeline, procuring what she believes to be deadly poison from the court doctor. The doctor, Cornelius, is suspicious and switches the poison with a harmless sleeping potion. The Queen passes the “poison” along to Pisanio, Posthumus and Imogen’s loving servant — the latter is led to believe it is a medicinal drug. No longer able to be with her banished Posthumus, Imogen secludes herself in her chambers, away from Cloten’s aggressive advances.

Posthumus must now live in Italy, where he meets Iachimo (or Giacomo), who challenges the prideful Posthumus to a bet that he, Iachimo, can seduce Imogen, whom Posthumus has praised for her chastity, and then bring Posthumus proof of Imogen’s adultery. If Iachimo wins, he will get Posthumus’s token ring. If Posthumus wins, not only must Iachimo pay him but also fight Posthumus in a duel with swords. Iachimo heads to Britain where he aggressively attempts to seduce the faithful Imogen, who sends him packing. Iachimo then hides in a chest in Imogen’s bedchamber and, when the princess falls asleep, emerges to steal from her Posthumus’s bracelet. He also takes note of the room, as well as the mole on Imogen’s partly naked body, to be able to present false evidence to Posthumus that he has seduced his bride. Returning to Italy, Iachimo convinces Posthumus that he has successfully seduced Imogen. In his wrath, Posthumus sends two letters to Britain: one to Imogen, telling her to meet him at Milford Haven, on the Welsh coast; the other to the servant Pisanio, ordering him to murder Imogen at the Haven. However, Pisanio refuses to kill Imogen and reveals to her Posthumus’s plot. He has Imogen disguise herself as a boy and continue to Milford Haven to seek employment. He also gives her the Queen’s “poison”, believing it will alleviate her psychological distress. In the guise of a boy, Imogen adopts the name “Fidele”, meaning “faithful”.

Back at Cymbeline’s court, Cymbeline refuses to pay his British tribute to the Roman ambassador Caius Lucius, and Lucius warns Cymbeline of the Roman Emperor’s forthcoming wrath, which will amount to an invasion of Britain by Roman troops. Meanwhile, Cloten learns of the “meeting” between Imogen and Posthumus at Milford Haven. Dressing himself enviously in Posthumus’s clothes, he decides to go to Wales to kill Posthumus, and then rape, abduct, and marry Imogen. Imogen has now been travelling as “Fidele” through the Welsh mountains, her health in decline as she comes to a cave: the home of Belarius, along with his “sons” Polydore and Cadwal, whom he raised into great hunters. These two young men are in fact the British princes Guiderius and Arviragus, who themselves do not realise their own origin. The men discover “Fidele”, and, instantly captivated by a strange affinity for “him”, become fast friends. Outside the cave, Guiderius is met by Cloten, who throws insults, leading to a sword fight during which Guiderius beheads Cloten. Meanwhile, Imogen’s fragile state worsens and she takes the “poison” as a hopeful medicine; when the men re-enter, they find her “dead.” They mourn and, after placing Cloten’s body beside hers, briefly depart to prepare for the double burial. Imogen awakes to find the headless body, and believes it to be Posthumus due to the fact the body is wearing Posthumus’ clothes. Lucius’ Roman soldiers have just arrived in Britain and, as the army moves through Wales, Lucius discovers the devastated “Fidele”, who pretends to be a loyal servant grieving for his killed master; Lucius, moved by this faithfulness, enlists “Fidele” as a pageboy.

The treacherous Queen is now wasting away due to the disappearance of her son Cloten. Meanwhile, despairing of his life, a guilt-ridden Posthumus enlists in the Roman forces as they begin their invasion of Britain. Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Posthumus all help rescue Cymbeline from the Roman onslaught; the king does not yet recognise these four, yet takes notice of them as they go on to fight bravely and even capture the Roman commanders, Lucius and Iachimo, thus winning the day. Posthumus, allowing himself to be captured, as well as “Fidele”, are imprisoned alongside the true Romans, all of whom await execution. In jail, Posthumus sleeps, while the ghosts of his dead family appear to complain to Jupiter of his grim fate. Jupiter himself then appears in thunder and glory to assure the others that destiny will grant happiness to Posthumus and Britain.

Cornelius arrives in the court to announce that the Queen has died suddenly, and that on her deathbed she unrepentantly confessed to villainous schemes against her husband and his throne. Both troubled and relieved at this news, Cymbeline prepares to execute his new prisoners, but pauses when he sees “Fidele”, whom he finds both beautiful and somehow familiar. “Fidele” has noticed Posthumus’ ring on Iachimo’s finger and abruptly demands to know from where the jewel came. A remorseful Iachimo tells of his bet, and how he could not seduce Imogen, yet tricked Posthumus into thinking he had. Posthumus then comes forward to confirm Iachimo’s story, revealing his identity and acknowledging his wrongfulness in desiring Imogen killed. Ecstatic, Imogen throws herself at Posthumus, who still takes her for a boy and knocks her down. Pisanio then rushes forward to explain that “Fidele” is Imogen in disguise; Imogen still suspects that Pisanio conspired with the Queen to give her the poison. Pisanio sincerely claims innocence, and Cornelius reveals how the poison was a non-fatal potion all along. Insisting that his betrayal years ago was a set-up, Belarius makes his own happy confession, revealing Guiderius and Arviragus as Cymbeline’s own two long-lost sons. With her brothers restored to their place in the line of inheritance, Imogen is now free to marry Posthumus. An elated Cymbeline pardons Belarius and the Roman prisoners, including Lucius and Iachimo. Lucius calls forth his soothsayer to decipher a prophecy of recent events, which ensures happiness for all. Blaming his manipulative Queen for his refusal to pay earlier, Cymbeline now agrees to pay the tribute to the Roman Emperor as a gesture of peace between Britain and Rome, and he invites everyone to a great feast

 

My Thoughts:

This was much longer than the previous play or two and by the end I was getting antsy and ready for it to be over. And honestly, there are times I wonder about just reading the wiki page and calling that a day.

This Shakespeare Experiment isn’t going superbly. While not going off the rails on a crazy train, I don’t look forward to these at all. My zeal is definitely flagging and I feel like I’m doing a lot of slogging.

Next!

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre ★★★☆☆

pericles (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 95
Words: 25K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

John Gower introduces each act with a prologue. The play opens in the court of Antiochus, king of Antioch, who has offered the hand of his beautiful daughter to any man who answers his riddle; but those who fail shall die.

I am no viper, yet I feed

On mother’s flesh which did me breed.

I sought a husband, in which labour

I found that kindness in a father:

He’s father, son, and husband mild;

I mother, wife, and yet his child.

How they may be, and yet in two,

As you will live, resolve it you.

Pericles, the young Prince (ruler) of Tyre in Phoenicia (Lebanon), hears the riddle, and instantly understands its meaning: Antiochus is engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter. If he reveals this truth, he will be killed, but if he answers incorrectly, he will also be killed. Pericles hints that he knows the answer, and asks for more time to think. Antiochus grants him forty days, and then sends an assassin after him. However, Pericles has fled the city in disgust.

Pericles returns to Tyre, where his trusted friend and counsellor Helicanus advises him to leave the city, for Antiochus surely will hunt him down. Pericles leaves Helicanus as regent and sails to Tarsus, a city beset by famine. The generous Pericles gives the governor of the city, Cleon, and his wife Dionyza, grain from his ship to save their people. The famine ends, and after being thanked profusely by Cleon and Dionyza, Pericles continues on.

A storm wrecks Pericles’ ship and washes him up on the shores of Pentapolis. He is rescued by a group of poor fishermen who inform him that Simonides, King of Pentapolis, is holding a tournament the next day and that the winner will receive the hand of his daughter Thaisa in marriage. Fortunately, one of the fishermen drags Pericles’ suit of armour on shore that very moment, and the prince decides to enter the tournament. Although his equipment is rusty, Pericles wins the tournament and the hand of Thaisa (who is deeply attracted to him) in marriage. Simonides initially expresses doubt about the union, but soon comes to like Pericles and allows them to wed.

A letter sent by the noblemen reaches Pericles in Pentapolis, who decides to return to Tyre with the pregnant Thaisa. Again, a storm arises while at sea, and Thaisa appears to die giving birth to her child, Marina. The sailors insist that Thaisa’s body be set overboard in order to calm the storm. Pericles grudgingly agrees, and decides to stop at Tarsus because he fears that Marina may not survive the storm.

Luckily, Thaisa’s casket washes ashore at Ephesus near the residence of Lord Cerimon, a physician who revives her. Thinking that Pericles died in the storm, Thaisa becomes a priestess in the temple of Diana.

Pericles departs to rule Tyre, leaving Marina in the care of Cleon and Dionyza.

Marina grows up more beautiful than Philoten the daughter of Cleon and Dionyza, so Dionyza plans Marina’s murder. The plan is thwarted when pirates kidnap Marina and then sell her to a brothel in Mytilene. There, Marina manages to keep her virginity by convincing the men that they should seek virtue. Worried that she is ruining their market, the brothel rents her out as a tutor to respectable young ladies. She becomes famous for music and other decorous entertainments.

Meanwhile, Pericles returns to Tarsus for his daughter. The governor and his wife claim she has died; in grief, he takes to the sea.

Pericles’ wanderings bring him to Mytilene where the governor Lysimachus, seeking to cheer him up, brings in Marina. They compare their sad stories and joyfully realise they are father and daughter. Next, the goddess Diana appears in a dream to Pericles, and tells him to come to the temple where he finds Thaisa. The wicked Cleon and Dionyza are killed when their people revolt against their crime. Lysimachus will marry Marina.

My Thoughts:

Head and shoulders above Two Noble Kinsmen. Still doesn’t mean this was a favorite of mine though. For only being around 100 pages, this felt twice as long.

I am not sure what this current grouping that I am reading fall into. Historical plays, perhaps? I’m just glad Shakespeare didn’t try to do “old timey wimey” talk like in Two Noble Kinsmen. At least I could understand what was going on.

As my Shakespeare journey continues (I think about 25% done with the Complete Works omnibus that I’m going through), I am beginning to have a lot of sympathy for people who read Charles Dickens but don’t necessarily love his stuff. I LOVE Dickens works and so whenever I read one it is a joy. The same cannot be said of me and Shakespeare. I don’t know how much of this I will ever retain and I certainly am NOT going to be going around and quoting Shakespeare.

No matter the rating of these plays, no matter how much I might enjoy, or not enjoy them, this project is not a waste of time or misguided. Shakespeare is absolutely foundational to Western Literature and while I might think some of those foundation stones are closer to swiss cheese than blocks of granite, they still undergird everything we read today.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Two Noble Kinsmen ★☆☆☆½

twonoblekinsmen (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Two Noble Kinsmen
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Tragic Comedy?
Pages: 246
Words: 71K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

A prologue informs the audience that the play is based on a story from Chaucer.

Three queens come to plead with Theseus and Hippolyta, rulers of Athens, to avenge the deaths of their husbands by the hand of the tyrant Creon of Thebes. Creon has killed the three kings and refuses to allow them proper burial. Theseus agrees to wage war on Creon.

In Thebes, Palamon and Arcite, cousins and close friends, are bound by duty to fight for Creon, though they are appalled by his tyranny. In a hard-fought battle Palamon and Arcite enact prodigies of courage, but the Thebans are defeated by Theseus. Palamon and Arcite are imprisoned, but philosophically resign themselves to their fate. Their stoicism is instantly destroyed when from their prison window they see Princess Emilia, Hippolyta’s sister. Both fall in love with her, and their friendship turns to bitter rivalry. Arcite is released after a relative intercedes on his behalf. He is banished from Athens, but he disguises himself, wins a local wrestling match, and is appointed as Emilia’s bodyguard.

Meanwhile, the jailer’s daughter has fallen in love with Palamon and helps him escape. She follows him, but he ignores her: still obsessed with Emilia. He lives in the forest half-starved, where he meets Arcite. The two argue, but Arcite offers to bring Palamon food, drink and armaments so that they can meet in an equal fight over Emilia.

The jailer’s daughter, forsaken, has gone mad. She sings and babbles in the forest. She meets a troupe of local countrymen who want to perform a Morris dance before the king and queen. Local schoolmaster Gerald invites the mad daughter to join the performance. Theseus and Hippolyta appear, hunting. Gerald hails them, and they agree to watch the yokels perform a bizarre act for them, with the jailer’s mad daughter dancing. The royal couple reward them.

Arcite returns with the food and weapons. After a convivial dinner with reminiscences, the two fight. Theseus and his entourage arrive on the scene. He orders that Palamon and Arcite be arrested and executed. Hippolyta and Emilia intervene, and so Theseus agrees to a public tournament between the two for Emilia’s hand. Each warrior will be allowed three companions to assist them. The loser and his companion knights will be executed.

The jailer finds his daughter with the help of friends. He tries to restore her mental health. On the advice of a doctor, he encourages her former suitor to pretend to be Palamon so that she will be gradually accustomed to see him as her true love. His devotion slowly wins her over.

Before the tournament, Arcite prays to Mars that he win the battle; Palamon prays to Venus that he marry Emilia; Emilia prays to Diana that she be wed to the one who loves her best. Each prayer is granted: Arcite wins the combat, but is then thrown from his horse and dies, leaving Palamon to wed Emilia.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this at all.

For one thing, there wasn’t any comedy. I can see where you could mine comedic gold from 2 cousins fighting over the princess of the country they were just fighting against, but this was all serious business.

Secondly, reading Shakespeare can be hard enough, but this time around he used what is I’m guessing his equivalent of “old timey language” to make it appear as if this was some old story. There were times I simply could not comprehend what was being said or what was trying to be conveyed.

Thirdly, in conjunction with that, the plot was almost opaque to me. It wasn’t until I read the Wiki synopsis that I felt like I had a grasp of what I had actually read.

Really felt like I wasted my time and I simply tried to get through this as fast as possible to get it over with. That is NOT how I like to read my books nor do I recommend it to anyone. Poop.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Two Gentlemen of Verona ★★★☆☆

twogentlemenofverona (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Two Gentlemen of Verona
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 84
Words: 24K

 

Synopsis:

Two young friends, Valentine and Proteus, go their separate ways as Valentine wants adventure and Proteus wants to woo a local girl, Julia. Valentine heads to Milan.

Proteus father sends him to Milan as well, as he’s afraid of Proteus becoming a namby-pamby wuss. Proteus and Julia vow undying love for each other and Proteus gives Julia a ring as his troth.

Valentine and Proteus are united in Milan. Valentine, who excoriated Proteus for falling in love and allowing his love for Julia to keep him home, has fallen in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan’s daughter. The Duke has other plans for her though, ie, to marry her to Thurio, a rich man from another city state. Valentine tells Proteus that he and Silvia will steal away and secretly get married. Proteus has himself fallen in love with Silvia and betrays Valentine to the duke.

Valentine is banished and ends up becoming King of the Outlaws, a noble group of men who have been unjustly banished and rob the rich from Milan.

Proteus, under the cover of pretending to help Thurio, woos Silvia himself. She scorns him as a base man who betrayed not only his friend but his lover Julia and also his vows to her. Meanwhile Julia has secretly left Verona to find Proteus and becomes his squire, dressed as a page. She see’s Proteus infidelity and vows to get him back.

Silvia runs away rather than marry Thurio and gets captured by the Noble Outlaws and taken to Valentine. Everyone else is chasing her and also get captured by the Outlaws. Valentine challenges Thurio to a duel for Silvia and Thurio declines, as he has no love for Siliva. The Duke is disgusted, gives his blessing to Valentine and Silvia’s nuptials. Julia faints and Valentine discovers who she is. He and Proteus make up, as Proteus realizes his behavior has been abominable and repents. Valentine then reveals that his page is Julia. The Duke pardons everyone and they all head off for a double wedding in Milan.

 

My Thoughts:

Part way through this play I turned to Mrs B (as is our wont, we were sitting on our couch side by side reading) and said “I just don’t like Shakespeare’s plays. She nodded and agreed. The low-brow humor that Shakespeare uses just doesn’t appeal to either of us.

That being said, I have no intention of stopping. These plays are foundational to Literature as we know it and yes, that is Literature with a Capital L. I don’t plan on becoming a Shakespeare expert by any means, but I do want to have a passing familiarity with them.

One of the things that has bothered me about these plays is how characters can change at the drop of a hat. For example, in this play Proteus proclaims undying love for Julia and then wham, suddenly he’s destroying his own and his friend’s life for another woman. Then at the end of the play suddenly he reverts back to loving Julia. I’m beginning to realize that that is simply how a play operates. It isn’t a book with all the time that a book has. It is a play and many of the things that we expect from a book simply aren’t possible in a play. I don’t like it but I am beginning to be able to accept it. For me, that is a big step forward.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Taming of the Shrew ★★★☆½

tamingoftheshrew (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
Taming of the Shrew
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 133
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The play starts with a rich lord taking a drunk at an inn and doing everything in his power to convince the drunk that he, the drunk, is actually a lord who has been crazy for the last several years. He brings in some players to put on a play and thus the main story begins.

Younger Daughter is sought by all and sundry, as she is beautiful, accomplished and generally pleasing in every way. Her Older Sister is a Shrew with a tongue that can remove metal. Their father declares that he won’t allow the younger daughter to even be courted until the Older Sister is married. Thus several suitors put into action a plan to be tutors to the Younger Daughter and secretly woo her while teaching her.

A Bold Young Man enters the city and hears about the situation from his friends. He decides that Older Sister is the woman for him and he’ll have her no matter her tongue. He approaches the father, gets his approval, has a run in with the Older Sister where words are exchanged like primed grenades and the wedding is set for a week later. Bold Young Man begins acting irrationally to drive his almost wife to distraction and after they are married head back to his home. There he tames her to his behavior and forces her to accept his behavior and mood or go hungry. They return to the city.

The Younger Daughter has fallen in love and with some shenanigans she and the Suitor are married. The Older Sister and her husband return for the wedding and the Tamed Shrew is shown to all, eliciting amazement from all and sundry.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

I was very annoyed when the play ended and the secondary play about the drunk and the nobleman didn’t end as well. It was obviously just a ploy to start the primary play and to get the audience into a jocular mood. I however, wasn’t jocular at the end, as I like things wrapped up neatly.

I definitely enjoyed this more than some of the other Shakespeare plays I’ve read. I am realizing that in those old books where characters quote Shakespeare from memory and everybody in the book recognizes it, well, that is a lot of bilge. Much like Pop Culture references, it isn’t somethat that EVERYBODY gets, but only the group that cares about it. Reading Shakespeare doesn’t mean you’ll recognize the many quotes that were tossed around in yesteryear. Only those who study the Bard will be able to do that.

Ok, enough of that. Let’s talk about that cover shall we? It took me a tiny bit to realize it was a movie cover, but once that clicked, 5 seconds of Gugle-Fu showed that it was from the 1967 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Obviously THIS cover was meant to draw the male eye while the movie poster I found has a virile Burton striding along with a huge smile while carrying Taylor over his shoulder while she pounds on his back with her fists. I wish I had chosen another cover from Librarything but that was the highest resolution one, I think, and the others (if I’m remembering correctly) reminded me of modern impressionistic paintings, brrrrrr!

Cover aside, I’d call this a successful foray into Shakespeare. With my enjoyment level so varied, I simply never know what I’m going to like or dislike every time I crack the cover on one of these plays.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Much Ado About Nothing ★★★★☆

muchadoaboutnothing (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Much Ado About Nothing
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 84
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Benedick, a womanizing batchelor who regularly speaks out against marriage, has come home from the wars with his friend Claudio. Claudio sees Hero, the daughter of a Don and immediately falls in love and she with him. Benedick claims he’ll never get married and spars verbally with Hero’s cousin Beatrice, who has as sharp a tongue as him. They both claim hatred of the other.

Claudio and Hero conspire to get Benedick and Beatrice together. Using gossip and reverse psychology, it works. However, Claudio’s illegitimate brother decides to cause problems. He makes it appear that Hero is a whore and discredits her before her father and Claudio. She feigns death while her name is cleared.

Then Hero & Claudio and Benedick & Beatrice get married and the rascally brother gets caught by the law.

 

My Thoughts:

I went into this with a heavy heart. I was thinking to myself “Oh, not another Shakespeare, maybe I can skip a cycle”. I am glad I didn’t though. I had a blast reading this.

Beatrice was the kind of loud mouth woman that most men just want to put a rag in her mouth because she won’t shut up. It was hilarious. It also helped that she was one of the witty characters. Now, I did have some issues parsing what she was trying to say, what with her english being 400’ish years old, but for the most part I was able to get the gist of what she was trying to get across.

The only reason I gave this just a 4star instead of higher was because of how quickly both Beatrice and Benedick change their minds about the other. Yes, it is a very short play and for time constraints I understand, but it was almost literally a 180 degree reversal in the space of a minute.

Other than that, this was a true comedy. I’m thinking about tracking down a video version and seeing how it compares. Does anyone have any suggestions?

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ★★★★☆

amidsummernightsdream (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 111
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lysander and Hermia are in love. Hermia’s father however, wants her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius claims he’s in love with Hermia but had previously woo’d and declared his love to Helena. Helena is in love with Demetrius. Lysander and Hermia plan to run away from Athens and get married. Helena tells Demetrius (I’m not sure why) and all 4 meet in the woods at night.

During this time, the King and Queen of the fairies are having a tiff because of a little serving boy. Oberon, the king, gives his servant Puck some magic herbs to cause trouble for Titania, the Queen. Puck also uses this magic herb on Lysander and Demetrius and lots of problems ensure between the 4 humans.

At the same time, a group of workmen are practicing a play in the same woods for the Duke of Athen’s upcoming nuptials. Puck turns one of them into a creature with a donkey’s head and everyone runs away. Titania ends up falling in love with Bottom due to the magic herbs. Oberon tells Puck to fix everything, which he does and it is all sweetness and light between everyone.

The play is performed at the wedding and the Duke and Company have as much making fun of the play as they watching it. The players are rewarded and everyone is happy.

 

My Thoughts:

I read this back in highschool in the 90’s and have watched the movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, at least twice since 2000 so I’m relatively familiar with the story.

Finally, a “comedy” that I could laugh at. There is a reason this is one of Shakespeare’s more produced plays. There is something for everyone and for almost every kind of humor. Whether word plays or physical comedy or situational comedy, this has it all.

I don’t have much to say. I enjoyed this, am glad I really enjoyed something by Shakespeare and it has given me a shot in the arm to keep on reading. You’re never going to hear me quoting Shakespeare like Jeeves though.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Merchant of Venice ★★★☆½

merchantofvenice (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Merchant of Venice
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 140
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A merchant of Venice, Merchantio has all his funds tied up in ships out at sea. His friend, Romancio, needs to borrow money to woo a rich woman from another town. Merchantio allows Romancio to stretch his credit to the limit with a moneylender named Shylock. Shylock hates Merchantio and makes part of the credit deal that if Merchantio defaults Shylock gets to cut off a pound of flesh.

Shylock’s daughter runs off with a friend of Merchantio’s and takes a small fortune with her. Shylock doesn’t know which he misses more.

Things go well for Romancio. The woman’s father had setup a riddle to win her hand. If a suitor guessed wrong, he couldn’t tell anyone what he had guessed AND he had to remain single for the rest of his life. Romancio guesses right and marries the woman. His friend, Friendo, then marries the maid servant.

Things go bad for Merchantio and all his ships are sunk, pirated or go missing. Shylock claims the Law and says he’ll sue Venice and ruin her international reputation of Law Abidingness if the Duke of Venice won’t fulfill the law.

Romancio and Friendio run back to Venice with treble the amount owed so buy back Merchantio’s life. Unknown to them, their wives follow, dressed up as young men and claiming to be the friends of a very important Judge. The Duke of Venice brings the case before them. Shylock turns down the treble payment and wants his pound of flesh.

Romancio’s wife decides in his favor and Shylock rejoices. Then she drops the bombshell that he can only take a pound of flesh, no blood, nothing. If he does so and Merchantio dies, then Shylock will die and all his estates go to the City of Venice. The Duke rules that if Shylock won’t take his pound of flesh, the only way to avoid the punishment is to convert to Christianity and give half his estates away and lots of it to his estranged daughter. Everyone but Shylock is happy.

Then the wives decide to be clever and cause problems for their husbands. They beg, as the young men, to have some rings from Romancio and Friendio, who cave like $3 bills. Then the wives meet their husbands at home and demand to see the rings. Upon not seeing them, the wives claim they will sleep with whoever has the rings and follow that up immediately that it has already happened. Romancio and Friendio moan about being cuckolds and then the wives reveal the truth, everyone laughs and goes into a feast.

 

My Thoughts:

I was really enjoying this up until the end. I don’t think I’m going to ever find amusing made up drama between husbands and wives. Also, the names completely eluded me 5minutes after I finished the book, hence my little nicknames there.

There were boatloads of quotes that lots of people today know. When people here them, they know they’re from Shakespeare even if they have no idea which play. It made me wonder why certain quotes have attained that status and not others. Not all of them are epic, or particularly wise or stand out above other bits, as far as I can see. Just rather random.

I did laugh when Shylock’s daughter ran off and became a “Christian”. Shylock is bemoaning his loss of ducats and jewels and is complaining to a non-Jew about it. The non-jew starts complaining about how the price of pork is now going to rise because there is another pork eater (because obviously it follows that to show one is a Christian one must eat pork). It was so silly and ridiculous that I was just grinning through the whole back and forth.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Merry Wives of Windsor ★★★☆½

merrywivesofwindsor (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Merry Wives of Windsor
Series: ———-
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 80
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

Falstaff, a fat, flagrant lecher, pursues two married women of Windsor at the same time. The two wives decide to turn the tables on him and put him through all sorts of trials at the hands of their unsuspecting husbands. One time Falstaff is taken out of the house in a basket of laundry and thrown into the river. Another time he has to dress up like an ill-favored Aunt and is beaten by one of the husbands who hates the Aunt.Finally, he is made to dress up in deer antlers and beset upon by a group of children and pinched and beaten at midnight.

There is a smaller sub-plot of a young man and woman who want to get married and that is carried out under the nose of the father and mother, who each want the girl to marry the suitor of their choice.

Everyone but Falstaff ends up happy.

 

My Thoughts:

I wonder, why would a fat old man think he could woo happily married women? If I’d been one of the husbands, I’d have stuck a sword through Falstaff first chance I got.

I enjoyed this a good bit as I was able to make the play happen in my head. I had to consciously do it, but picturing it in my mind made it so much more palatable than just words on the page. Falstaff getting dumped in the river and beaten had me laughing out loud, like it was supposed to.

I have to admit that the whole “jealous husband testing his wife” thing that Shakespeare seems to thrive on (in regards to almost any married couple) doesn’t work for me. I don’t know if its a cultural thing or a personal thing or what, but if I ever suspected something untoward regarding Mrs B, I’d ask her. If there was another man then a 1st degree homicide would occur, but I wouldn’t be setting up scenarios to try to trap her or to try to make her act unfaithfully. That isn’t how real love works. Good old murder now, that’s how Twue Wuv weally works. * Fezzik cheers *

I am thankful this was as entertaining as it was. I was afraid I was going to have to put some more space in my reading rotation so I could continue on, but this helps keep me interested. Reading a Complete Shakespeare is kind of like a marathon. Don’t do it lightly and for phrack’s sake, don’t ever, ever, EVER sprint.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)