Jun 25, 2010

Nostalgic Friday: Shakespeare!!

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them are books I enjoyed in my teens and others are books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
"The Tempest" Act 4, scene 1, 156-158

William Shakespeare has got to be one of my favorite authors, as trite as that sounds. His vocabulary, turn of phrase, and balance all combined to make some of the most memorable characters, quotes, and stories of all time. While most children were getting bedtime stories along the lines of Make Way for Ducklings, my sister read to me from her completed works of Shakespeare. My love for his work was destined from a very tender age and while he has too much work to encompass in one stint, I thought I would sum up my top three favorite plays.

Miranda and the TempestThe Tempest
Prospero, the proper Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda are shipwrecked on a tiny island with only two inhabitants: a spirit named Ariel & the sole human Caliban. Prospero and Miranda spend 12 long years on the island until Prospero's power of sorcery are so strong that he creates a tempest large enough to bring his throne-usurping enemies to the island. There is a struggle for power, a budding romance, and nefarious plots that ensue, leaving the reader guessing who will be left standing at the end.

I freely admit that one of the main reasons I fell in love with this play is for the simple fact that my husband and I met while working tech crew for this play in high school. While some scholars believe this play to be a comedy, I truly believe it is one of Shakespeare's great romances. There are so many different kinds of love in this one story that there is no way it's not a romance! While I found Miranda to be quite flaccid sometimes, most of the other characters are lively and engaging, with a mean edge.

Midsummer Night's DreamMidsummer Night's Dream
There are multiple love plots going on all over this play. Hermia has rejected the hand of Demetrius and has run away with Lysander. Helena, lusting after Demetrius, informs him of the plan and they chase Hermia and Lysander through the forest outside of Athens. Meanwhile, Oberon (King of the Fairies) and Titania (Queen of the Fairies) are in the very same forest visiting. They are in discord, so Oberon calls Puck, a mischievous character, to place an ointment on Titania's eyes so that she will fall in love with the first thing she sees. Thinking he will be the first thing she sees, Oberon does not think much of it and sends Puck to spread the juice among the young lovers. Madness ensues as no one awakens to see the right person. Quite the scandal!

This is just a fun play all around! There is laughter, love, music, and fun at every corner. The lovers are all very young and energetic, providing an amusing spectacle for the King and Queen to observe. The overlapping stories between the human and the fairy world are quite interesting to behold on their own. This is honestly, my favorite play of them all.

Beatrice and BenedickMuch Ado About Nothing
Love is in the air, but it is not easy to grasp. Beatrice and Benedick, long time intellectual adversaries, are constantly bickering about everything from their appearance to politics. Their favorite subject of debate in this story centers around love. Beatrice's cousin Hero and Benedick's kinsman Claudio are madly in love and want to begin courting immediately so they can be joined in matrimony as soon as possible. Meanwhile, many family & friends are conspiring to kindle a love between rivals Beatrice and Benedick. Distraught and angry at the thought of losing his kinsmen to marriage, Don John hatches an evil plan to smite Hero's good name & pull Benedick from the clutches of his nemesis. Love is thrown about this whole play and it leaves no one untouched.

This is one of my newest favorites. I recently watched the film adaptation and it was so much fun! The embodiment of Beatrice and Benedick on the screen was so incredible! Their passion and heat was practically palpable. Not to mention the plots and lies were so much easier to visualize. I had to go back after seeing the film to re-read the story itself. My copy is filled with highlights and marking to indicate some of the best expressions.

There you have it folks, my top three favorite Shakespearean plays. I could go on for days about his work, but I will simply leave you with a question and then a quote: what are your favorite plays?

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
Puck, "A Midsummer Night's Dream": Act 5, Scene 1, 423-426


April (BooksandWine) said...

I am so jealous I wish someone had read old Shakes to me when I was younger! I like selected quotes from Shakesphere and Sonnet 131, so hmmm, now may be the time to brush up.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

Funny. I was actually taking a break from reading Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare (which is very interesting) when I came across your post.

So, you love the comedies! I actually love the histories, which is funny because I've never heard any other person say that before. My favorites are Henry IV Part One and Two. But, I also love The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew, so I guess I'm a pretty mixed bag. Of course, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello are genius. I just don't often feel like reading them outside of my classroom. Better to enjoy a spritely romp than a tragedy whilst alone.

Interesting topic!