After reading French Braid earlier this year, I decided that it was time to read more Anne Tyler. I decided to start with the book that I’ve had on my shelf for over 5 years. Just as I initially did with the contemporary retellings of Jane Austen novels, I completely bought into the idea of updating Shakespeare. I really wanted to read them all and see how good they were. In the end, I bought this one and then forgot all about it. I’m much more invested in Shakespeare than I am in Jane Austen. When they ended up being bad, I didn’t care much. I didn’t know how I’d feel about terrible Shakespeare retellings. Maybe Ann Tyler was the perfect place to start?
I’m a fan of Shakespeare. I think he’s way more accessible than people give him credit for. I can also understand why so many people don’t get along with him. For me, it all comes down to how you first experience him. For most of us, we’ll come across our first Shakespeare play at school. If you go through this with the right teacher then he you’ll be able to embrace the Bard fully. If you don’t have the right teacher then you’ll just think he’s old and boring. Thankfully, the first play that I studied was Macbeth and it ended up being a lot of fun. Then I got stuck into Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. By the time I was 16, I was already pretty hooked on old Willy. Although, I’ve never been a big fan of a couple of his most popular plays. Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Nights Dream tend to be ones that most people are willing to watch. I guess they’re more like traditional romantic comedies, so they might be easier for modern audiences to get behind. Really, I don’t know why people love these plays so much. For me, they’re two of his most tedious plays. And, yes, I have studied the histories. Certainly in the case of Romeo and Juliet. I just think it’s stupid.
If all had gone to plan today, I would have been writing my review of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory. Of course, things haven’t gone to plan at all. I just haven’t got round to reading enough this week and I’m still waiting to finish it. I’ll be honest, I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would but I do think it’s a great book. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for non-fiction? I’ve got a load of cosy crime waiting for my and I think I’m just waiting to get onto that. Knowing what I’ve got waiting for me is only making the task of getting through this book even harder. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to move on tomorrow. For now, I’ve picked a random book tag to entertain you.
After watching the lovely but quite sad Ordinary Love for my Tuesday Review this week, I wanted to find something a bit sillier for my Throwback Thursday Review. After all, we’re living in quite a challenging time, so it’s important to find something to laugh about. I recently watched Horrible Histories: The Movie and it was pretty good. I know that I’m way too old for the television show at this point but I think it’s genius. I know that I read the books when I was younger but I’m not sure I ever truly appreciated them. If only the show had been around when I was a kid. I grew up loving history but I was always a little out of my depth academically. Although, if there’s one thing I do know, it’s literary history. So, of course, I appreciated the fact that the people behind Horrible Histories have also made a film about one of literature’s biggest figures. I never watched Bill when it came out. Maybe it was time?
I’ve had Disney+ since it arrived in the UK on Tuesday but haven’t had much chance to use it yet. Work is still open because, apparently, football kit is now classed as essential. I’m glad to still have my weekly routine but it has prevented me from really getting to grips with the new streaming service. All I’ve done so far is watch random episodes of The Simpsons. Not that it’s a problem because there are some gems in the 31 seasons. However, I’m not really getting the most out of it. So, I decided to watch something from there for my TBT. As soon as I’d finished work today, I searched the list of films. I got to the first one and stopped. It’s been ages since I saw this film and, as a teenager, I played the soundtrack on repeat. How could I not?
This week I find myself having finished a few shorter reads that I want to talk about but that didn’t really fill a full review. Not wanting to drag something out for the sake of it, I’m going to combine them all in one simple post. Why not?
Dear William Shakespeare,
I think the first time I can remember studying you in any depth was in year 8. So I would have been about 12/13 years old if my maths is any good. We were focusing on Macbeth and, in particular, the witches speech. We had to come up with our own version or something. I’m not entirely sure what the point of studying you at that time was but I was definitely drawn in by the whole witch and magic vibe that you were giving off. So, you could say, I’ve loved you from the beginning. And it’s a love that has continued with every new play I have discovered and with every play that I have revisited. With every sonnet I’ve analysed. With every play I’ve watched or film adaptation I’ve seen. I wouldn’t go so far as to compare it to Romeo and Juliet’s because we all know how stupid that whole relationship was but I’d happily compare it to Nerissa and Gratiano (one of the most underappreciated but most adorable romances in your plays).
And I could go on and on about why I loved you and what you mean to me. I could tell you which my favourite plays are. Question why I still find myself having to reassure people who you aren’t too difficult or the language is too hard to understand. I could thank you for the many ways in which you’ve changed our language or our culture. How you’ve remained relevant for such a long time and remain one of the key figures in English literature. I could revisit some of the times I’ve watched you on stage. Name drop Michael Sheen again and talk about how great an experience it was to watch him play Hamlet on stage. How watching Tom Hiddleston play Coriolanus whilst sitting next to a non-Shakespearean friend was both an uplifting and totally anxiety-filled experience. I could go on and on about how wonderful you are. But I won’t.
Instead, because I might not get this chance again, I want to ask you a question. What’s with all the cross-dressing, dude? I mean, was it really that funny to have so many of your characters dress up in someone else’s clothes and be mistaken for someone else? Was it really worth the cheap laughs to have The Merchant of Venice end on a pointless case of women dressing as men again? It undervalues the rest of the narrative to have that scene at the end where the two women trick their new husbands into giving them their rings. I was with you when Portia was using the disguise to school a bunch of men even if it does raise some questions. It was still a power move. But then the thing about the rings? Unnecessary. Portia is one of the most irritating women in you plays and it’s because she plays that stupid game. And don’t even get me started on Rosalind.
Was the taste in humour so unsophisticated in your day that all it took was one women to dress up as a man to create the best comedy of all time? Imagine what your audiences would have though of Mrs Brown’s Boys. They’d bloody love it. But I’m happy that you found something that worked for you. And, maybe, you were making some bold statement about gender and women. Maybe you were allowing these women to take a significant part in their stories that they would have been unable to do dressed as a man. Maybe. Or maybe it was simply to give the poor young man pretending to be Portia a chance to play a boy for once? Either way. I’m worried about you, man.
Exit, pursued by a bear.