Friday, 23 December 2011

Seriously, What is it All About?

Shakespeare was my first love. Because he's been dead for almost four hundred years, it was a rather one-sided relationship. I'm not entirely sure he ever felt the same way about me and, I suspect, he was seeing other people. Nonetheless, my passion continues to burn as strongly as it ever did.
William Shakespeare (The Cobbe Portrait)
No matter what you think of him, you have to admit, he sported a rather fine beard, didn't he? Anyway, I digress.

What Possessed Me?

I was prompted to create this blog and begin work on a series of ebooks, (the first of which will be available from all the usual online places in the new year - will keep you updated) because it never ceases to amaze me that there are people who do not share my love for the Bard of Avon.

Yep, some even go as far as to hate him (just writing that makes me gag). A loathing of Shakespeare is a completely alien concept to me and one that I don't think I will ever truly comprehend. However, I have tried to. And what I came up with is this: people dislike Shakespeare, because they don't understand him.

I am convinced that if Shakespeare is taught (and I say taught, because I'm fairly sure the problem begins in schools) in a way that makes his plays and poems accessible, then people will appreciate his genius. I think those who claim Shakespeare is irrelevant, crusty, staid and...I can barely bring myself to write this...boring, simply find his plays impenetrable.

Simple as A,B,C

Often, the route to understanding Shakespeare's plays is simply watching them, rather than reading them. After all, they're plays not novels.

Sometimes, however, a further examination of Lady Macbeth's motives, Hamlet's procrastination, Rosalinde's cross-dressing or Iago's villainy is required.

In addition, having definitions of some of the more archaic Shakespearean words can make things a little clearer. For example, simply knowing that 'cozen' means 'to deceive' and that 'sooth' means 'in fact' or 'indeed', can be extremely helpful in unravelling what, to some, may appear an impossibly difficult literary knot.

That said, I'm not one of those who believes that the answer is writing Shakespeare in "plain-speak" or modern English, although that may have its place on occasion. 'Translating' Shakespeare into modern English is akin to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Yes, Marcel Duchamp, I'm talking to you.

Who would have thought she could sport such a handsome beard, too? But, again, I digress with talk of facial hair.

That's Entertainment

On the other hand, I'm grossly opposed to viewing Shakespeare's plays in an elitist, precious manner. It's important to remember that they were written for the entertainment of the masses, or at least those who could afford to go to the theatre.

They were not highbrow. In fact, quite the contrary, some of Shakespeare's work is decidedly lowbrow.

I firmly believe that Shakespeare is still for the masses and the writers of West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate, The Lion King, 10 Things I Hate About You and She's The Man (to name but a few) obviously agree with me.

And it's not just modern retellings that prove popular. Did you know that every four hours a production of Macbeth is being staged somewhere in the world? That's a lot of actors who have to remind themselves to call it 'The Scottish Play'.

So, the plan is to create a blog that examines and explains Shakespeare's plays and poems in a way that is interesting, enthusiastic and, occasionally, amusing.

If there's something about a sonnet, play or specific character that you've never understood and would like explained, please get in touch. I feel I must qualify that with: I won't do your homework for you. However, I will endeavour to help point you in the right direction.

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