What was the first word I thought of when I heard the word, ‘Shakespeare’?
Apologies. I’m neglecting my PonyTail Shakespeare read-through, but suddenly writing more frequently, and hopefully more pithily (but I somehow doubt that), at the moment. Let’s see how long it lasts …
I’ve already recommended Duane’s blog – the longest-running Shakespeare blog I know of – to you. Tonight – and I had something work-related to do – I stopped by whilst having dinner, and promptly got distracted. Which is what the best blogs do, right?
The internet being a brilliant example of intertextuality, Duane’s most recent post is itself a response to something he read on Reddit. And here I am, responding in turn.
The premise is ‘What do you think of when you hear the word Shakespeare?‘
Forget the Oscars, here are some winners that REALLY matter to me …
We HATE lists, don’t we?
Except, actually we bloody love them, if it’s something we’re interested in.
That said, the last thing we want is a list that agrees with our perceptions – the dopamine rush of validation is very short-lived compared to the opportunity to passionately argue our disagreement. We LOVE subjective opinions. Trust me – my wonderfully fulfilling University years were full of essays arguing the toss – why, for example:
Dracula should not be judged for his ‘special dietary requirements’, whereas Van Helsing and his bunch are vindictive bastards;
we ought to respect Edward Hyde for his refreshing honesty, as opposed to Henry Jekyll‘s hypocrisy; or
Ursula K. Le Guin’s (RIP) The Left Hand of Darkness, whilst a superb book, had no place in the Science Fiction module
You get the picture: English Lit is a tailor-made subject for those who are argumentative and prepared to do the spadework to back-up their cockiness …
Act III places us at the game table, jostling Shakespeare for a view of the goings-on in that VERY busy wood …
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III: with apologies to Albert Einstein 
On reflection, it seems odd that as a child experiencing / undergoing / suffering a Catholic education, once a year, on our ‘Saint’s Day’ – St Martin de Porres: 03 November – we were treated to a film in the school hall which was invariably a Ray Harryhausen epic.
Not that I want to complain. I loved them, and still do.
They fostered an appetite for the ancient world – for Perseus, Theseus, Hercules, Jason … any number of heroes and their associated monsters. And, like the Book of Genesis, they’ve proved to be invaluable in teaching Literature.
Not drowning, necessarily – still waving, to paraphrase Stevie Smith, but wishing I wasn’t quite so far away from the shore, paddling blithely in the warm shallows of Romeo and Juliet, as I should be by the end of January; having splashy fun with the rest of the blog and my new excursions on Twitter. But fifty-plus posts and nine plays in? Not dead.
That said, despite plenty of opportunity, I’ve ‘not got round to‘ reading Act III of Love’s Labour’s Lost. I’m still reading: Iain M Banks, Paolo Bacigalupi, and chunks of George Wilson Knight on Julius Caesar, but, when all’s said and done, no Shakespeare or LLL.
We might say I’ve lost any love of my labour in this play … (sorry about that)
Antipholus (E) is NOT a twenty-first century role model – but was he a sixteenth-century one?
… but truly two.’ Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
PTS read through: Comedy of Errors, Act IV
In 2018, the notion of what it means to be a ‘man’ feels ever more opaque, with behaviours and attitudes being scrutinised as never before, perhaps. As a gender, we sometimes appear confused about the path we ought to take to find a satisfying and yet socially acceptable direction or self-definition.
Maybe it was ever thus.
In yesterday’s post on Macbeth I touched upon the fragility of our hero’s notions of himself when his masculinity was challenged by his wife. Macbeth is largely a play about what it means to be a man, but that’s way down the line in terms of my reading schedule. Reading Act IV of Comedy of Errors felt like one of those non-comic interludes towards the end of plays like Much Ado About Nothing, and instead of laughing, I found myself thinking about what Antipholus(E) implies a ‘man’ should be. It’s not an attractive picture …