Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For he's a jolly good fellow...


p.s. not so happy recorded deathday.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

For all you Joss Whedon (and Quentin Tarantino) fans...

Serenity, if it was written by Shakespeare.

It was inspired by "William Shakespeare's Pulp Fiction":

Kudos to for the link.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Excuses for procrastination

So I realize that I haven't actually read a Shakespeare play in a while. That's not cool. The thing is, since I turned Shakespeare reading into a Project, it's become something that I'm actually putting off, which is crazy, because I like doing it, but I guess that's what happens whenever something becomes an assignment (even if self-imposed).

One way in which I don't read Shakespeare is by reading other things. Currently, I'm in the middle of several others. Here's a brief list, in case you're curious:
  • Foundation and Empire
  • The Seven Year Itch
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Audacity of Hope
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
  • Hard Times
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • The Lord of the Rings
A rather eclectic bunch, there. (A couple are re-readings.) But once I get through those I'm gonna try to limit my non-Shakespeare reading to one, maybe two, books at a time. We'll see if I can actually do it!

Oh, and 3 Henry VI? Got a good beginning. Perhaps I shall read the rest of it tomorrow...

p.s. I might do the whole tragedy/comedy uberpost at some later date, but I'm not quite up for it now. Plus I'm not really sure if I have anything to say on the subject at this point.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tragedy vs. comedy


Okay. Not so much. But really, it's no contest. I don't think anyone would dispute that Shakespeare's tragedies are superior to his comedies (for some reason, whenever people talk about this, histories are only mentioned as a footnote, despite the fact he wrote ten of them, and you always get the one person who says about The Tempest or whatever, "but isn't that a romance?" and then you get a long discussion... that's not a bad thing, mind you, said discussions can be quite entertaining...). Of course, now that I've made such a sweeping generalization, someone's probably gonna argue that the comedies are, in fact, better than the tragedies. I'd love to see that. I'd love even more if someone would advance the notion that actually Shakespeare was best at writing history, since that's even more of a left-field position. My opinion, though, is that Shakespeare was pretty darn good at everything, but he was simply better at tragedy than the others.

However, there is a certain general bias that somehow tragedy constitutes High Art while comedy is just fodder for the masses or something. I wonder whether Shakespeare is somewhat responsible for this. I mean, look at his best-known plays. Hamlet. King Lear. Macbeth. Othello. Romeo and Juliet. The only comedy which has that degree of word-of-mouth recognition is A Midsummer Night's Dream. Could Shakespeare's status as the Best Playwright combined with the fact that the first plays of his people think of are tragedies lead to tragedy having an undue place at the pinnacle of Western storytelling? Or does it go back to the Greeks, or earlier?

Perhaps tomorrow I shall write about WHY I don't think tragedy is necessarily better than comedy. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Speaking of adaptation-like thingies...

I happened to hear about this a while back, figure y'all would find it entertaining:

Yes. There's a Shakespeare connection. Follow the link, my young Padawan...

Friday, April 11, 2008


So I was watching the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice yesterday and today (the one with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth), which I had somehow never seen before, and I was astonished by how good it was. Seriously. It was one of the best adaptations I've ever seen, along with the recent Bleak House on Masterpiece Theatre. It's very hard to take a great novel and make a good movie, since they are rather different media. It's especially hard when the novel in question is more than just great, but is one of the best ever written (as is my opinion regarding Pride and Prejudice. Feel free to disagree, but then I shall seriously question your literary taste. It's just one of those things you have to love, like Hamlet and cheese pizza, and, especially, the combination thereof. End Digression).

However, you'd think that a film of a play would be a lot easier. Indeed, some rather straight play-to-film adaptations have worked very well. Alfred Hitchcock's Rope comes to mind as successful film that is almost indistinguishable in form from a stage play. In fact, the media of film and theatre seem to be close relatives. Indeed, on a certain level, they are. They're both visual forms of storytelling, with actors and directors and costumes and sets, and they both tell stories of similar length due to the fact that most human beings are only willing to sit still for so long. (That's why you can have a single novel, The Lord of the Rings, take up almost a dozen hours of film, even with a bunch of stuff cut out; novels have the luxury of telling longer stories than plays or films can, since there's no expectation that a reader will read a novel in one sitting.)

However, I think on a certain level these things are superficial. I've personally acted in a few plays myself, and also in a couple of student films, and I can tell you that the experiences were not at all similar. What works on a stage doesn't necessarily work on film, and vice versa. I could ramble on for a bit as to why I think this is the case, but I'll admit that on a certain level I don't know. I haven't thought it through enough, maybe. I'd be curious as to other people's thoughts on this. But nevertheless, no matter how distinct theatre and film are, I think that novels differ more from both of them than they do to each other.

Tying this into Shakespeare, I've seen a handful, though not all THAT many, film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays. Not a single one of them has been as good as the 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Why is that? Is it because Pride and Prejudice is about five hours long (without commercials)? Possibly, but Pride and Prejudice is simply a longer story than any of Shakespeare's plays. Is it its faithfulness to the original novel? Well, to a certain extent, but no one ever films a novel perfectly accurately, again, since they are very different media. While I think that faithfulness should be striven towards as much as the director or screenwriter thinks reasonable, simply following the text of a great novel to the letter will not lead, in and of itself, to a great film. Besides, while Shakespeare and Austen are authors of similar caliber, for some reason filmmakers think it is acceptable to alter Austen's words, but general only cut (not modify) Shakespeare's, so most adaptations are extremely faithful, unless it is one of those modern-day adaptations which ditch the original language entirely.

But, being someone who really enjoys stage performances of Shakespeare, I find that the films I've seen don't feel like true adaptations to a different medium. They're more like dilutions. I can't quite express why. Am I the only person who feels this way? Maybe I've just watched the wrong ones? The most important Shakespeare adaptation I have not seen is, shamefully, Branagh's Hamlet. I've seen bits and pieces here and there, and it looks pretty awesome, so I shall have to Netflix it now that it is on DVD. Perhaps it will change my opinion of filmed Shakespeare. We shall see.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm not dead!

Hey. Sorry for the utter lack of posting in the past two weeks. I am somewhat ashamed to report that my Shakespeare reading project has not exactly been progressing recently. However, I've decided, that since I've got this blog space, I'm gonna darn well use it. So therefore, a resolution! I shall try to post SOMETHING every day. If I can make a tenuous connection to Shakespeare, all the better. And there will be some play reading updates quite soon, I promise. It's hard when one's free time is divided between at least half a dozen different books... :-)