Tuesday, March 29, 2011

April Reading List – Fun with Shakespeare

"My library was dukedom large enough."  - William Shakespeare, The Tempest 
I’m not really sure why I got a sudden yen to read Shakespeare.  Perhaps it’s because Eleanor Brown’s new novel, The Weird Sisters, is on my Spring to-read list.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t read any Shakespeare since college.  Whatever the reason, this month I’m getting my Bard on with selections that include Lear, Greer, and a few things weird.

New Release:  The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown.  Three sisters return to their childhood home to be with their mother who’s dying of cancer, and their academic father who speaks in Shakespearean verse.  The names of the daughters?  Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, of course.
Classic:  King Lear by well, you know who.  Three sisters compete for the affections of their aging father, the king.  Lear bequeaths his kingdom to his two eldest and silver-tongued daughters, whom he perceives love him most.  The third daughter, who loves him but refuses to flatter him, is cast out with no dowry.  Lear’s poor choice is the undoing of the whole family, as well as the state of Britain. 
Nonfiction:   Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer.  A controversial history that defends Shakespeare’s estranged wife, Ann Hathaway.  The link is to a YouTube lecture by Greer, who is quite funny in her scholarly way.
Juvenile:  Stage Fright on a Summer’s Night by Mary Pope Osborne.  My son is all about the Magic Tree House books right now.  What better way to introduce him to Shakespeare?
Inspiration:  Shakespeare’s Wordcraft by Scott Kaiser.  An outline of conventions and language devices in Shakespeare’s verse.

Bonus Reads – Here are some other books I may check out because there’s just too much good stuff by and about Shakespeare:
Contemporary Fiction:  The Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett.  I’ve never read Pratchett, and I don’t read a lot of fantasy, so this promises to be a fun new experience.  I may also peruse My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield. 
Classic:  Macbeth and As You Like It.  I’ve read Macbeth, but I’m sure I’ll need to thumb through it for a refresher, to better “get” the farce that is The Wyrd Sisters.  I may need to read As You Like It to better understand Rosalind’s character in The Weird Sisters.
Nonfiction:  Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Gary Wills.  Wills links the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to a cell of Jesuits and explains how the ensuing witchcraft hysteria led to “cursed” productions of Macbeth from 1606 onward. 
Juvenile:   Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird by Vivan Vande Velde.  A new take on traditional fairy tales, where perceptions of who’s the villain and who’s the hero are turned on their heads.  Not exactly Shakespearean, but I liked the Weird Sisters in the title.
Inspiration:  Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language by Sister Miriam Joseph.  This book has been around for 60-some years and is still seen as the authority on logic, grammar, and rhetoric.

Check out these links for even more Shakespearean goodness:
·    Shakespearean heroes and villains clash in this cool comic book world: http://www.killshakespeare.com/
·     If you find The Bard intimidating, check out Sparknotes’ No Fear Shakespeare.  This site puts Shakespeare’s prose side by side with a modern day translation.  It’s cheating a little, but it’s pretty nifty.  Just make sure you read Shakespeare’s actual words, too.  You wouldn’t want to miss out of the beauty of his verse.  http://nfs.sparknotes.com/
·    On May 10, 2011, HarperCollins will release Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare Changed Everything.  It’s supposedly full of examples of how Shakespeare’s influence pervades our modern culture. http://www.harpercollins.com/books/How-Shakespeare-Changed-Everything-Stephen-Marche/?isbn=9780061965531
·    April 23 is Talk Like Shakespeare Day.  Get thee to this site and brusheth up on thine Shakespeech http://www.talklikeshakespeare.org/.
·    Check out Quest for a Classic’s amusing review of Macbeth: http://myquestforaclassic.com/category/books/macbeth/

Please comment if you know of other Shakespeare books or sites I shouldn't miss.  Happy reading!

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