Thursday, February 28, 2008

Full disclosure

For the record, I was in a production of Comedy of Errors once upon a time, so that may be why I find it so hilarious. I do think it is quite funny on its own terms, however, even though it may not hold up to Shakespeare's later comedies (personally, I'm quite fond of Twelfth Night, but another may replace it as my favorite, who knows...)


Hey everyone,

Thanks for the comments! They didn't, unfortunately, immediately go through, since I had comment moderation turned on. It's off now, and will remain off unless spammers somehow find this blog. So, comment away! You don't need to be registered with blogger to do so.

I have decided that the next play I will be reading is Titus Andronicus. I'll get that started either tonight or tomorrow. It's another early play, which is good; I don't want to mess with Shakespeare's chronology all that much (I will, in fact, be reading The Tempest last.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Comedy of Errors, Acts III-V

So I've finished rereading The Comedy of Errors. My first gut reaction is man, what a short play! If it weren't for Real Life stuff interfering, I would have finished it several days ago. (sorry about that)

In many ways, The Comedy of Errors is much more of a "comedy" in the modern sense than in the Shakespearean one. Namely, there's no wedding at the end, and it has a lot of jokes. In fact, I sort of found it to be Shakespeare's foray into sitcom writing: lots of laughs, ultimately little depth. I say that not disparagingly, for I really enjoyed the play, and I'm sure lots of scholarly treatises have gone at length trying to explain what it "means". What I argue, though, is that whether it "means" anything or not in a grand sense is really besides the point. The Comedy of Errors is a prime example of Shakespeare as an entertainer, pure and simple.

I'll admit here that oftentimes Elizabethan humor completely goes over my head the first time I hear it, and even when I "get" it I don't always find it very ha-ha funny. I did, however, find a lot of the wordplay in The Comedy of Errors to be legitimately funny. Part of that is the quick pace. It reads a lot like a Marx Brothers movie, with the Dromios as Grouchos, throwing out one-liners constantly.

All in all, I really liked revisiting The Comedy of Errors, and I look forward to reading the rest of Shakespeare's canon in the near future.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

CoE 2.2

So this scene is basically hilarious. I can sum it up thus:

Dromio of S.: Time is bald!
Adriana [to A. of S.]: You're my husband!
Antipholus of S.: mmmmm... Kay.

For the record the whole time/hair bit is awesome. In my mind, where Shakespeare had a sketch comedy show, that was a highlight.

Oh, and Antipholus of Syracuse just totally pretends to be the husband of someone he has never met...

CoE 2.1

So 2.1 is actually pretty similar to 1.2: we have a conversation between a couple of characters, and then a confused Dromio of E. shows up, and said Dromio is threatened with corporal punishment.

The scene is really about Adriana and Luciana. At first there seems to be a contrast being set up between Adriana, the empowered woman, and Luciana, who is still trapped in the sexism of the era. But by the end of the scene we see Adriana is worrying about her looks and generally not standing up for herself. This isn't cool. I'm going to see whether I like the way these characters are portrayed more as the play progresses (which I recall from my earlier readings I will).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

continuing Comedy of Errors

So, the second scene of The Comedy of Errors disabuses us of any notion we might have had that we were reading a tragedy, as Dromio of Ephesus gets into some wordplay. Shakespeare loves wordplay, and was quite good at it, even in this rather early play.

What is strange about this scene is that a good deal of it consists of Dromio of Ephesus talking about how he has been abused by his master and his wife. Then we see Dromio getting smacked by Antipholus of Syracuse. Now, you'll remember the play started with a guy almost getting executed. Not only is there a surprising amount of violence in this pretty lighthearted play, it also seems clear that we're not really supposed to take all of the violence too seriously. Because while the Antipholi (and I insist on using that plural) are not shown to be the greatest of people, especially not Antipholus of Ephesus, they end up having happy endings and never pay for their mistreatment of the Dromios. Is this just an early form of black comedy? Certainly a good deal of the violence is played for laughs, but we also have sympathy for the Dromios.

Oh, and we hear the word "mountebank" in this scene. Shakespeare seems to love that insult above all others. I honestly have no clue why...

p.s. Antipholus of Syracuse seems purely motivated by greed. While Antipholus of Ephesus is definitely the worse of the two, Antipholus of S. doesn't seem to care one whit about Dromio's apparent insanity, but really does care about his money. Remind me not to owe this guy money, ever.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Comedy of Errors, 1.1!

All right, for no particular reason, I decided to start with The Comedy of Errors. I'm quite fond of this play, silly as it is. I read the introduction in the Pelican Shakespeare (I don't own a Riverside, sue me...), which got me thinking about the play's genre.

See, when reading Act 1 Scene 1, two things jumped out at me. First of all, Shakespeare managed to get away with having a TON of exposition right at the beginning by putting the character saying the exposition in danger of death. That's clever. Second, just looking at this first scene, the play doesn't seem especially comedic. The only clues we have that we aren't reading a tragedy are the inherent absurdity of the whole pair-of-twins idea, and the fact that the play is titled The Comedy of Errors. But otherwise, this is quite the somber beginning, as the reasonably sympathetic Egeon looks like he's going to die.

Stay tuned for more later as I return to the play...

Hello everyone!

I've always really loved Shakespeare. Reading his plays, seeing them performed, acting in them... the whole deal. However, I realized the other day that I actually have never sat down and read the whole canon. For that matter, I've never read or seen several of his plays, and most of his poems. That's not very good for someone who considers himself to be a huge Shakespeare fan! So I'm going to be reading the whole shebang over the next few weeks (or however long it takes), and to make things more interesting, I'm going to post my thoughts here as I do it. Hope you enjoy it!