Sunday, December 28, 2008

Shakespeare Meme

Just got back from my vacation from the virtual world and saw some interesting questions about Shakespeare over at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook. The one that compels me to spread the meme is the question about whether Shakespeare is "important." Well, duh. But I don't mean "important" in the sense that we all admit--even brag about--knowing the plays. Shakespeare is important in the way any good writer is important; because the issues he raises are ones that many people struggle with, and so the plays show us sides of human nature that we don't always see in our own lives. What's more important than expanding your view of the world?

Here are the rest of the questions:

What was your first introduction to William Shakespeare? Was it love or hate?

My father, who taught in the theater department of a state university, took me to see all the plays they did each year, and so I saw Shakespeare's plays before I could be required to read them or think of them as "difficult" or "boring." They were way more interesting than, for instance, some of George Bernard Shaw's talkier plays (Misalliance) when I was very young.

Which Shakespeare plays have you been required to read?

I think I was required to read Romeo and Juliet in High School. (I already loved Zefferelli's movie version, which I saw when I was 9 or 10, younger than Olivia Hussey, who played Juliet at the age of 15.) In my sophomore year of High School, when I was 15, I was required to read Julius Caesar, but didn't find it interesting, and since I could evidently do well on the test without reading it, I never did. In fact, I finished a PhD in English Literature without ever reading it. Just this year I went to see it at Otterbein, and it was a good production, set in the future. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Do you think Shakespeare is important? Do you feel you are a “better” person for having read the bard?

The less we revere Shakespeare and ask dutiful but ultimately silly questions like does reading him make us a better person, the more we can love the plays. They're fun. And why read them? SEE them! The sonnets are worth reading, but I wouldn't recommend them to anyone as a kind of self-help book!

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?

Yes, as I've said before, I'm completely fascinated by Othello. I'm also very fond of Antony and Cleopatra, and wish there were more productions of it.

How do you feel about contemporary takes on Shakespeare? Adaptations of Shakespeare’s works with a more modern feel? (For example, the new line of Manga Shakespeare graphic novels, or novels like Something Rotten, Something Wicked, Enter Three Witches, Ophelia, etc.) Do you have a favorite you’d recommend?

Most "adaptations" aren't that good, if you ask me. Jane Smiley could have written something better than A Thousand Acres, and reading that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a version of Hamlet doesn't make me want to rush out and find the book. If modern writers actually did what Shakespeare did, which was to base his plays loosely on several different stories while adding his own twists, that would be more exciting than adapting only one story. But, as Harold Bloom observes, The Anxiety of Influence is too prevalent in the 20th--and so far the 21st--century.

What’s your favorite movie version of a Shakespeare play?

I think I'd have to say that it's Oliver Parker's version of Othello, with Kenneth Branagh as Iago and Laurence Fishburne as Othello. But I am very fond of Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, too, with Emma Thompson.


Anonymous said...

I plan to read Merchant of Venice this year, and a re-visit of Taming of the Shrew.

Jeanne said...

The Taming of the Shrew is my least favorite Shakespeare play. I don't really understand why more women don't dislike it.

Carleen said...

I've snagged this meme and will do it once I've finished calculating final grades. Considering that I did my graduate studies on Shakespeare, this one is right up my alley! :)

harriet M. Welsch said...

This is a fun meme. I think I will give it a go, if I ever have time to write again.

gautami tripathy said...

Good to see this meme spreading its wings so fast!

Liked reading your views!