Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I bite my nails to the quick

Ah, the bard. If there's one writer I'm not looking forward to reading, it's him. I get paranoid, antsy, and disoriented, knowing that I'll get my hands close to any of his works. Ye olde English? I don't get ye, not very much. Now I understand this expression because I'm close to doing it: I bite my nails to the point of thumbtacks.

But there's no escaping him. He is everywhere. He still influences TV, movies, and, of course, theater. He has been redone, rewritten, repackaged, updated, made more palatable. I think he just may be alive. For all we know, Shakespeare is the original Elvis, and he has not yet left the building.

As I said, I can't escape him, even if I cross dress, pretend I died, tell everyone I'm busy avenging a relative's death because his ghost told me so, marry a shrew or become a shrew myself, or just basically be one in a pair of star-crossed lovers. Have I just listed some elements of his plays? As I said, very influential indeed. Effortless.

This month, the book club will be discussing one of his plays, "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I've found out that it's a comedy. Hmmmm... So no one dies? No one becomes a crazed woman and drowns herself? But wasn't AMND the play featured in the movie Dead Poets' Society? I recall that, during curtain, the prep school boys loved it. All those cheers, whistles, and yawps. So I know that AMND doesn't suck vacuum cleaners.

My first non-academic experience with Shakespeare was just last year. Wasn't that bad, not bad at all. Read about it here. This time around, I come better prepared. Graphic novel? Check. A Shakespeare handbook? Have it. The Royal Shakespeare Company edition of the play? Beside my bed. The collecting part is easy; the bard can even take pointers from me in that aspect. Now for the challenge—reading.

I've never really liked manga. I find it weird and artificial. (Manga, one more WTF shit coming from Japan. Solar-powered flashlights? I die. But: toilet seat warmers—crazy brilliant.) But I'll take all the help I can get. Besides, the colored panels are beautiful, in a weird and artificial way.

And The Essential Shakespeare Handbook published by DK is just a beautiful book. It has more information on Shakespeare than you actually need. It's like a calculus textbook, but with full color images of people in costume. Because we know, really, that calculus is highly relevant in our everyday life. You need Shakespeare and calculus to buy stuff from iTunes, or to take the train, or to have sushi. Really.

And yet another book that I find quite interesting is The Graphic Canon series. Such an ambitious project, a 3-volume set aiming to interpret important literary works in comics and visual form. Volume 1 includes very early works such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad, Tao Te Ching, The Tale of Genji, and, what do you know, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"! AMND just runs for 5 pages though. Better than nothing. Shakespeare ignoramuses (ignorami?) can't be choosy.

I'm no English major, so wish me luck on the book discussion. I majored in science actually, but I do believe in pretty things like fairies. And, from what I Googled, AMND has a few characters who are fairies. Because we love fairies, especially fairy royalty, and the sprites who attend to them.


Lynai said...

Haha I love this post! Makes me want to read Shakespeare too, but not soon! And if I do, I might just read that manga version. :D

Peter S. said...

Shakespeare is my waterloo!

Rob said...

I returned to Shakespeare last year with The Taming of the Shrew, after not reading him since high school, and I loved it. Planning to tackle another soon, so we'll see if that was a one off.

I think the key might be to slow down, taking the time to chew on the language a bit.

Peter S. said...

Oh, good suggestions! I will follow those! Thanks, Rob!