Oh Shakespeare. You always have the words. Isn’t it amazing? That one mysterious Londoner in the 16th century had the skill and education to write a canon of what is widely considered the basis and best of all English literature? All the classical allusions, the foreign language quotations, the history, the literary allusions – WHERE DID YOU GET IT?!?! My main thought on Shakespeare is disbelief.
Putting that aside for a moment, it is February! Which means Renaissance month for the Fanda Classic lit 2015 reading challenge.
I had high and lofty ambitions about reading Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe or some other big thick intimidating theological work. Alas, between preparing for my trip and working more than ever before, I got distracted. Not to mention the fact that my older brother strongly cautioned me against Marlowe, apparently he can be quite vulgar and crude? Does anyone have experience?
Anyhow, I decided to settle for another Shakespeare instead. Good old Shakespeare is always there with another play. They are always fantastic and widely available at every library ever.
The Taming of the Shrew
The last play I read by Shakespeare was Othello, So as I began reading, I was emotionally preparing myself to be angered and torn and just, you know, dunked into the dumps of humanity. However, The Taming of the Shrew is most definitely a comedy. The entire play is much lighter in flavor (thank goodness).
This play has more characters than I think is normal for Shakespeare, Regardless, in typical Shakespearean fashion, one guy pretends to be another guy who is pretending to be this guy and basically it gets confusing really really fast. However, by the end of the play I understood who was who without doing any outside research or serious figuring.
The story was a simple tale of rich men courting two Italian sisters. One sister is angelically kind and one is about as pleasant as an angry pig. A bunch of guys want to wed sister (go figure), but the mean sister is older and must be married off before the young sister can begin courting. So it goes that the men plot and jest and woo and rival.
I must say, this is probably the most light hearted and simple of all the Shakespeare I have read. It was certainly enjoyable and fairly easy to read.
Of course, Shakespeare writes in antiquated language and can be difficult to understand at first. The more you read, the more you get used to it. I find that by the end of the first act I have usually gotten the hang of it, after which the Elizabethan style comes quite naturally.
Added Bonus: The story takes place in Italy, which means that Shakespeare threw in a bit of Italian. (Don’t worry, a good copy will provide translation in the footnotes). Since I am studying Italian, I was encouraged to see that I understood it all. Of course it is mostly just the occasional greeting or farewell, but still… I was happy.
Have you ever read a Shakespeare play? What did you think?