Saturday, July 3, 2010

I fail to capture the durm and strang

On Soph's instructions I'm not apologising for my irregularity in posting, for that would draw attention to my self-absorption in assuming people would've been frustratedly waiting for me, when in reality, you're all about your daily lives without fussing at all.

However, I have decided to give up on the goal of doing it all in a year. I haven't read a word of Henry the 6th for a week, and keep accidentally calling it Richard the 6th in my head and to others. Oh well.

Not that Billy hasn't continued stalking me.

First, there was the delightful present of a performance of Comedy of Errors by the students of St Andrews Cathedral School (I mustn't call them the kids!).

They did a fantastic job! I didn't even realise there were two Dromios until the scene where they talk over the door to each other, and suddenly, there were two very similar looking boys on stage doing a fabulous job of yelling Shakespearian lines in consternation. Well done! And the Dromios also did an excellent job of physical comedy (as did their counterpart Antipholae in poking them in the eyes).

The girls were also wonderful, and the costumes and settings were delightfully done. The whole thing had been brought forward to a miraculous 1920s Mediterranean coast that wouldn't have existed that way, but it was great.

The best part about the night was coming into the darkened black-box school theatre, walking in through the sets, over the boards, and feeling a sense of sick and excited anticipation taking me right back to the same experience myself of pre-show nerves before a school performance. It was thrilling.

And I didn't laugh too loudly, so no one forgot their lines on account of me (I believe).

More Shakespeare popped up in my choice to show my friend Rach the latest BBC Taming of the Shrew from their Shakespeare Re-told series - which is absolutely amazing. (I know I'm using an effusion of adjectives in this post, but it's because I feel so restricted by the written word when trying to convey the bubbly joy I've felt at these particular moments). Seriously though, I dare anyone out there who has read or heard of Dr Emerson Eggriches Love and Respect to watch it and see if they don't see the exact same principles wrought so wonderfully that you'll want to love like that forever.

Hmmmm. So you see that I can't escape him anyway, just in going about daily life. And also of course he keeps popping up in other books I'm reading. He was quoted in a novel I finished last weekend, and I'm buried in I Capture the Castle at the moment which is truly stunning me. I've been sitting here howling with delight, surprise and depression. If my neighbours have heard me yelling out, "oh no!!! Oh nooooo. No no no. Oh that's just terrible" they'll probably think I'm having an over-excited girlish conversation with someone. But no, it's just me, here in our loungeroom, realising over and over again why reading Shakespeare and being bookish has meant not only that if I'd kept a journal as a teenager, it would've been hilarious reading for the world upon my death, but why even now, it certainly makes me a little peculiar...

Oh why oh why did I have to be more Cassandra than Rose? More Lizzy than Jane, and frankly, more Mary than them all??!!! I love it of course. I truly adore being this way, because it has made I Capture and exquisite as well as exquisitely painful read, but sometimes it's a little depressing.

So if none of that made sense, I apologise (knowing of course as mentioned before that it has no effect on you but to cause a slight sense of distaste), and certainly shall strive to be better.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Action heroes

Another fab thing about Henry 6th is the hilarious stereotyping of the French - in Act Two, they're wandering around half-dressed, disorderly, and totally unprepared for battle.

Meanwhile, the English hero Talbot is winning battles, trading witticisms with French Laydeeeesss and giving glory and honour to the full force of England - a leader who's a team player.

As I mentioned last time, it's all very wham-bam, thankyou Ma'am, and it's totally a boy-play, in the way that most movies with Sly Stallone are boy-movies. The battles, the short dialogue, the fast pace, it's all there.

Now I'm not much of a boy-movie person. I enjoy the occasional James Bond (more because I can indulge in my favourite sport of eye-rolling), and some espionage type stuff does hold appeal for me. The more brainless movies like Fast and Furious just leave me bored.

But even though I don't always enjoy that kind of movie, I'm finding it really refreshing to see an action plot through the eyes of Elizabethan language and intrigue - for me, it lifts it to a completely different level. Does that mean I'm a snob? I don't really know... Am I a snob because I find the form more interesting, and the concerns of the plot more relevant to life now?

Shakespeare's thematic concerns in his history plays are clearly the construction and use of power - and I think that's part of what keeps them so fresh and relevant.

So maybe I'm not a snob, but I do find action in this form more mentally and emotionally engaging. And you get to read the word "contumeliously". Mmmmmm :-)

I'm also really looking forward to seeing a high-school version of Comedy of Errors on Saturday night - hurrah! It'll be interesting to see if they can pull off the whole 'two sets of identical twins' thing successfully enough.

And props to Bron S for recommending "Looking For Richard", a 1996 Al Pacino doco on Richard III - I am totally going to hunt for a copy of that to bolster my History phase, and look forward to hearing from English actors about why they reckon Americans have difficulty performing Shakespeare - well duh!

Does anyone else out there have a Shakespearian Doco Recommend?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's a maaaaaaaaaaaaans world.

"Dauphin. I am by birth a shepherd's daughter,
My wit untrain'd in any kind of art.
Heaven and our Lady gracious hath it pleas'd
To shine on my contemptible estate.
Lo, whilst I waited on my tender lambs
And to sun's parched heat display'd my cheeks,
God's Mother deigned to appear to me,
And in a vision full of majesty
Will'd me to leave my base vocation
And free my country from calamity -
Her aid she promis'd and assur'd success.
In complete glory she reveal'd herself;
And whereas I was black and swart before,
With those clear rays which she infus'd on me
That beauty am I bless'd with which you may see.
Ask me what question thou canst possible,
And I will answer unpremeditated,
My courage try by combat if thou dar'st,
And thou shalt find that I exceed my sex.
Resolve on this: thou shalt be fortunate
If thou receive me for thy warlike mate."

Act One, Scene Two, Joan la Pucelle (or Joan of Arc).

That bit of dialogue pretty much sums up what I love so far about Henry 6th (Part One).

In a very short 21 lines, Joan's character is introduced bluntly, her history expounded, her role established, a sword fight proposed (it follows) and a hint of sexual tension added to the plot. Wham bam, thank you Ma'am (or Miss as the case is).

Particularly in contrast to Comedy of Errors, but just generally  in the context of the comedies and romances, Shakespeare's history plays are action in the full sense of the word. He powers through huge slabs of plot, churning through characters and scenes. He moves the reader from the bedroom to the battlefield to the boardroom fast as lightning as he chops and changes scene to scene. It's fast paced and breathless. You get the feeling as you read that the players would be struggling for breath at the end of some sections of dialogue.

Not that it's all like that. Shakespeare is a master of pace as well as all the other elements of good drama, and still pauses, and slows down, and focusses in on more intimate moments. There are finely drawn scenes and bittersweet moments.

But Henry the 6th so far has certainly not been putting me to sleep.

And I'm looking forward to the rise and rise of the bombastic and slightly deranged Joan la Pucelle as I read one Act before bed each night for the reast of this week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I love the way Shakespeare plays with the boundaries of reality, not just in his comedies, but in every genre he pursues.
He uses fairly traditional magic devices; sprites and fairies, potions etc. He also plays with time and myth, but one his most successful devices is the recurring motif of confused identity.

In Comedy of Errors (COE), you've got mulitple characters that look identical and thus are confused with one another (the Antipholus' and Dromios). And in other comedies and tragedies, you've got characters in disguise, which can cause a lot of confusion and angst, like in Twelfth Night. But he also uses it as a simple plot device to create situations that wouldn't have otherwise happened, like in one of my favourite ever scenes, where Henry V wanders among his soldiers on the eve of battle to test the mood and have a chat with God... It's fabulous.
But the confusion of identities in COE creates for me the same joy but also angst that other farce comedy like Mr Bean (and I reckon The Office) creates. On the one hand, the situations are hilarious and fantastic if performed well (as Rowan Atkinson does par excellence). However on the other hand, I feel the awkwardness, pain and frustration of the situation too keenly if the performance is too accurate, which makes it a painful experience to watch... Does anyone else find this kind of farce excruciating?
I really feel for the confused characters of COE, especially Adriana (who as you may remember was already anxious about her husband's love), who experiences an excruciating day of her husband apparently going totally mad and cracking onto her sister.
Worse still, she is accused of sending him mad by nagging! Her jealousy is blamed for his supposed mental distress! (Eh-oh, I've started copying his synonymous parallelism!) But as her sister Luciana points out, Adriana's nagging is being rather built up, she loves Antipholus, and this is how she expresses it... Her love is further exposed by her extreme reluctance to leave him with the Abbess and her desire to nurse him...
Anyway, leaving the nagging issue aside, it must be very distressing for your nearest and dearest not to recognise you at all, to claim they are not married to you and have no idea who you are... (Although, I can also see the fun in simply pretending not to recognise your family at all, and demanding instead that they address as you as Sir Pontington, Knight of the Realm or something. Maybe I shall pretend to be someone entirely different tomorrow...!!)
But it all makes me wonder if anyone in Billy's time lived long enough to develop Alzheimers...? Not that you have to be old to get it of course, but it would seem it helps...
So even though the comedy is absolutely hilarious (I particularly recommend Act Three, Scene Two to all, Belgium will become for you a far naughtier locale than you ever thought it could be ;-), there is a tinge of sadness to it all for me...
And thus I leave Bill's 'first' comedy, highly amused and thoughtful (exactly the way I like it) and move on to history with the First Part of Henry the Sixth. Huzzah!
How delightful it is to tick something off a list, even though it's not the assignments I should have completed or the study I should have done by now ;-)
But I shall leave you all with one delicious word from COE to ponder - distemperatures.
Ohhhh yeaaaahhhh.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Worry worry?

Ok so, it's the end of semester, I'm run off my feet, lotsa things to do. Assignments to finish (well... Start...), Mario-kart to play, strange mission expos to go to, so I haven't really kept up with either my reading or my blogging. Apologies.

But you shouldn't be surprised I'm flagging so soon you know? I'm Gen Y! We're all about instant gratification, not drawing out every experience until we've wrung each sweet drop of... Um... What was I saying?


Ooh, isn't that strange, I just pulled a super-curly blonde hair out of my....

Sorry... What was it...?

Oh that's right. Stop with the guilt trip ok?!! I'll get to it! I know I haven't said anything for a few days, but I've certainly been thinking about the blog.

Which is why, partly in response to Soph's demand for actual Shakespearean material, I want to return to a second for Adriana's well of anxiety...

In my last post I analysed most of Adriana's freakout about her husband being late home to lunch in classic 2nd Wave Feminism terms. I attributed her anxiety to lack of education, empowerment and occupation, combined with patriachal exploitation of women in Graeco-Roman society.

Now I still reckon all that's a pretty fair assessment. Each of those elements of her situation would have a massive impact on her mental well-being and behaviour, as they have had on millions of women... But I don't think that's all there is to it...

We had a fantastic sermon on worry at church on Sunday night, and it's reminded me of a few things...

Many people in our country struggle with anxiety and depression. It's serious and devestating, but also creates many everyday heroes and heroines.

But what looking at worry reminded me of is that for many people, worry, anxiety, is built into their world view.

Adriana questions,

"Whilst I at home starve for a merry look,
Hath homely age th' alluring beauty took
From my poor cheek? Then he hath wasted it."

In Adriana's world, she worries that her value will only be high while her external beauty lasts.

She also asks,

"Are my discourses dull? Barren my wit?
If voluble and sharp discourse be marr'd,
Do their gay vestments his affections bait?
That's not my fault; he's master of my state.
What ruins are in me that can be found
By him not ruin'd? Then he is the ground
Of my defeatures. My decayed fair
A sunny look of his would soon repair.
But, too unruly deer, he breaks the pale,
And feeds from home; poor I am but his stale."

I think basically what she's wondering is if the very way she speaks and interacts displeases him, and that if that's the reason he's run off and left her (which he hasn't at all)...

Now, a lot of the guys I know say women worry too much. Can I just say though, it is freaking hard to be a woman!!

I spent at least half an hour the other day feeling totally depressed about the fact that I don't have lady fingers, but thick, square man fingers... And that that is yet another thing about my body that not just falls short of, but is pretty much the opposite of our society's ideal of feminine beauty... 

Now scoff all you like boys, but when your value as a woman is defined by how pretty you are, it's difficult not to feel anxious all the time about how pretty you are (or aren't!!).

So the 2nd Wave Feminist response is pretty much to say, well, society's standards of beauty are screwed, so screw them! Violate the rules, grow your body hair, stop wearing make up and find your value elsewhere.

And I say, hear hear!

But there's still gotta be more to it than that. Rejecting beauty as the standard doesn't fix the problem. Adriana moves from her looks onto her identity and the way she expresses it to her husband. She's now anxious about her behaviour as a woman...

And even if she moves on from that, there'll always be something else!

Some Feminists have fixed Adriana's problem by telling her she doesn't need men, and just shouldn't bother entering into relationship with one...

I think as long as Adriana is looking for any human, either herself or others, to provide total secure value for herself as a person, she's going to be anxious...

Jesus said,

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body... Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" And "I am the bread of life. The person who comes to me will never go hungry, and any person who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A gift for a phrase... And for feminism...?

Firstly, I promise that I am reading Comedy of Errors, and shall tell you about it, but, one small digression...

Hannah/West Wing Bandit left a comment the other day on "Doing Things in the Right Order" that I rudely forgot to reply to (sorry Han!). I had been referring to Billy's gift for phrases and the huge number of quotations credited to him. Hannah said:

"Interesting...but can it just be that his records are the FIRST to have written
those quotes down??? Is that why he's credited with 'coining the phrases'...
could it be possible they were already around,
or is that was 'coining the phrase' means?"

Basically, it's impossible to tell for certain (as are most things to do with Shakespeare!). However, from the surviving manuscripts of other playwrights at the time, such as Ben Jonson and Kit Marlowe, as well as other documents (thousands from that era of all types of documents), it would seem that if any of Shakespeare's quotes were common parlance at the time, no one else really bothered to write them down. Strange though it may seem, it is quite probable that with his fantastic gifts for drama and language, Billy just hit upon the perfect description, witticism or image more often than not.

For example, "to be, or not to be, that is the question" is a stand out quote not so much because the words are unusual, but because they burrow straight into the brain and stay there. And that's Billy's gift.

One of Billy's other gifts is his understanding of women and ability to write strong, interesting, vibrant and funny female characters (also a lot of fabulous female villains. Oh Lady Macbeth, how I love to loathe thee!).

Considering the fact that all female roles were played by young men and that most other playwrights just didn't bother even writing many lines for women, this is quite fantastic. What a mind-blowing exercise it would've been though for his original audiences to watch a young man playing a woman playing a man, such as with Viola in Twelfth Night - conFUsing!!

And in Comedy of Errors, probably among his first plays, Billy's gift for understanding women is right out on display.

Not just his understanding of our vulnerability in the area of fat jokes - yes, that's right, I found one of my favourite quotes again, "she is spherical... I could find out countries in her". Isn't that great?!!

But he also displays his understanding in, um, more important matters also...

Comedy of Errors is a farce (that's not a bad thing!). The action is all carried out in one day, where two identical twins with the same name, and their identical servants, also with the same name, are wandering around Ephesus, just generally getting into one huge scrape. So, it's hilarious, and bawdy, and would've been a very very funny play.

However, there is still such a depth there, and where it first hits me is in the dialogue given to the female characters. The first scene with Ephesian Antipholus' wife Adriana and her sister Luciana is fantastic!

But also a little scary...

The writing expresses so well the anxiety that can consume a housewife who is obviously an interesting and intelligent person, but who has not much to do except wait around for her husband to come home for lunch. It's Betty Freiden four centuries too early!

Adriana and Luciana have a fascinating back and forth about the wifely "duty" to be patient at the will (and whim) of her husband, to be obedient, with Luciana (unmarried) essentially telling her sister just to deal with it, and Adriana pointing out that she has no idea what it's like to wait around on a husband.

Actually Adriana is worried that the reason her husband is home late is because he's cheating on her. Why does she think this? Possibly he's pretty crap at expressing love for her. Possibly because in the society being portrayed, women were actually the property of their husbands, and therefore didn't have a strong sense of security that he wasn't going to do whatever his penis told him and would instead live up to the promises and comittments he's made to her.

Possibly she's just got bugger all else to think about because no one would educate her or allow her to do much other than cook dinner...

Whatever the reason, she's stressed out and freaked out, and Shakespeare does an excellent job of representing her anxiety sympathetically.

What it would've been like to watch two young guys playing that scene is a little beyond me, but I swear I've witnessed almost that exact conversation, and wondered the same things as Luciana wonders...

Isn't that amazing?

And it's not even the Bible!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Comedy of Errors

Seeing as the whole point of this blog is for me to actually read some Shakespeare, not just read about him, I figured I should stop procrastinating, get down and dirty and get into it.

So I "solved" the whole chronology problem by deciding to go with the table in the front of my Collins that was included in the introduction to the 1951 edition. I figure it'll stay with me as I cart the book around, and I can tick the plays, poems and sonnets off in pencil and feel very smug, which I look forward to.

The table said I should begin with the Comedy of Errors, so I have, and let me tell you, my brain took a while to clunk into gear at first.

I know that for many of you, reading Billy the Bard is an experience equivalent to drowning. No expression, no description, no image, no plain dialogue makes any sense to you at all, and so after a page, you're asphixiating slowly in a flood of phrases, eyes sliding closed, brain blacking out, hand's grasping wildly at all persons near you to force them to explain. And then, you stop struggling, your face grows increasingly pale, and you slip down into your chair in the back of English class, succumbing to the sweet sweet relief of death. For in death, you think, you won't have to read any more Shakespeare!

Well surprisingly, for those who suspect my love of the Bard is based solely on a snooty capacity to understand what he's talking about, I too share that experience of drowning-whilst-reading-unassisted.

When I come back to the Bard after a long absence, it is a little like riding a bicycle. All the muscle memory does eventually kick back in, but at the beginning, it's all very wobbly. After a while, I can begin confidently to increase speed and difficulty, begin racing up hills and down again, swooping joyfully all over the place, but just like all of us, I couldn't ride a bike immediately, I needed lessons, and training wheels, and a helmet, and adult supervision.

And for some us, all that much needed preparation was done pretty poorly in school, partly because some of our teachers couldn't ride the bike themselves, leaving them and us nowhere, and partly because some of us hadn't really read much of anything at all by the time we needed to tackle Shakespeare, and that makes the whole enterprise difficult in itself. It's like an immensely fat kid going from no exercise a day to a 10k run instantaneously - it's going to hurt, a lot, and may end in cardiac arrest. There needs to be a warm up, and some training.

(P.S. I will note here and now and forevermore. I am allowed to make whatever gentle fat jokes I like, for I am fat myself, and have heard them all. We fat people (mostly) understand one another, but if a fat person would like to register a complaint, please do, and I shall consider toning it down. You skinny people can just shut it :-)

One of the things about Shakespeare that most confuses those who now have to struggle with him in the 21st Century is that his was the language of the common people of his time, and yet it seems so inscrutable to us now... Even my Collins edition comes with a 2,500 entry glossary, (which I only just discovered!) "explaining the meaning of obsolete words and phrases" for the dumbfounded reader. We obviously all need help!

And I think that's ok. It's fine. It's completely appropriate that with all the shifts in language and meaning, with all the new things we've needed words for, and all the old things we don't even know of any more, it's understandable that a person can't simply pick up Shakespeare and understand all.

But let the language wash over you a little. Not in dunking breakers, but in gentle slap-slap-slaps to your semi-submerged face, and you begin to understand a little. After a while, you find you're grasping aspects of the plot, and as the scene changes, all of a sudden, you think you've figured out basically what's going on!

What joy! What rapture!

Now all of a sudden there's two pages of dialogue you don't understand at all, oh no! The blackness begins to creep in at the edges again, and your egg-beaters are powering away under the surface to remain upright and floating...

But then that character from that scene you did basically understand comes staggering on into this one, and you see the action again and know what's going on!

It's fantastic! It's funny! It's all beginning to make sense!

It's Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Doing things in the right order.

Ok so here's the thing.

It turns out that when I'm interested in something and I'm not going to be marked on it, I am quite capable of becoming organised, researched and fully prepared. Though I prove almost incapable of actually doing the required amount of research for a lot of my college assignments, I have begun reading and researching for this blog like nothing else.

Having long ago read through the various prefaces and introductory chapters in my Collins Edition, (including a mini-bio by Ms Germaine Greer) I decided I needed more info. My first go-to was Bill Bryson's Shakespeare the Illustrated Edition (thank you super-cheap store under Central Station – hallelujah). And I've got one word to say to you. Faaasskinating.

Did you know that our William, Billy, ol' Billy Boy, is responsible for roughly one tenth of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations material (Bryson, pg 151)? He coined many phrases, a couple that I knew of (“one fell swoop” and “the milk of human kindness” for eg) and some that truly stunned me to know of their origin.

For example, a favourite amongst country folk to this day, Shakespeare created the description “blinking idiot”! Also “vanish into thin air”, “bag and baggage”, “flesh and blood” (!!), “foul play”, “be cruel to be kind”, “pomp and circumstance” and “foregone conclusion”. Wow!! What a wordsmith!

400 years after writing his plays, we still constantly quote Shakespeare, even when we don't realise it at all.

As I said, I don't think you have to be highly educated to read Shakespeare. You certainly don't have to be highly educated to call someone a blinking idiot! Quoting Shakespeare isn't an act of toffery, it's normal every day use of English!

One of the most interesting dilemmas my research has raised for me thus far is the issue of chronology. Almost no one can actually agree on the order in which Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him, and there simply is not enough historical data to go on! Personally I would prefer, I think, to read them as close to original birth order as possible, in order to gain a sense of Billy's development as an author, and scry out the development of particular themes. However, there are several major disputes to overcome in making that decision (not least of which my request for votes on where to start!).

The intro in the Collins lists Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew and the Three Parts of Henry VI as his earliest works... And unfortunately the Tempest among the very last! (Why include it first I ask you?!!)

So I'm still pondering... What do you think? Is chronology important? Should I read them in order or not?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's nice and fat.

Despite being at least four inches thick, it's surprisingly lightweight.

Bearing a facsimile of the Chandos portrait, allegedly but uncertainly of the man himself, my Collins Complete Works of William Shakespeare won't cause too much strain to the shoulder muscles as I haul it around town for the next year or so.

Nor did it cause too much strain to the hip pocket nerve. As I recall, it was a sweet 16 bucks, and I talked my mum into buying it for me in a post-Christmas, A&R sale at Orana Mall before I moved out of home in Dubbo to Sydney for further study. It was a good purchase.

I know this will sound anachronistically 'high-brow', but is it possible to do "futher study", or more particularly a Journalism Diploma and an Arts Degree, without occasionally dipping into The Bard as a source of all that is golden and good in our language? I don't think so. Which is why I have reasonably frequently thumbed the delightfully parchment coloured pages of this tome to refresh my memory of one of the great speeches or sonnets, or to check if I have recalled a phrase correctly, or just to re-rehearse the passage in Twelfth Night wherein my middle name is hallooed to the reverberate hills (ever since learning that particular scene for Shakespeare Festival in Year Nine, it has given me great joy to quote it when people ask what the O stands for... Mostly people never know what I'm rabbiting on about...).

Of the many many silly things I've had to read in my 19 years of school (and counting), there have been many which have caused me to raise my eyebrows in perturbation, roll my eyes in exasperation and grit my teeth in condemnation. Never ever has Shakespeare made me do this.

I emphasise the 19 and counting not so much to talk up my educational qualifications for approaching this project, (who should need to be highly educated to read Shakespeare?! And I'm not sure that I am highly educated anyway...) but to draw attention to the endlessly satisfying fount of interest and delight that has remained without peer amongst all the literature I've chosen or been required to read.

Not because there are no other excellent authors who have surprised, challenged and inspired me, educated and filled me with joy. It's not really a comparison of depth. Shakespeare does have much that deeply satisfies, but Shakespeare, for me, has remained unparalleled mostly because he has much. He wins in the muchness stakes. There are just so many plays and poems and possibilities that ol' Bill's pretty hard to beat for pouring out buckets of the good stuff (as Bertie W might say).

Just $16 for buckets and buckets of the most startling, fascinating, hilarious, vile, disgusting, awe-ful, wise, vainglorious, meaningless, piercing, rhythmic literature to feast on feels... Well, I was going to say like robbery... But it doesn't. It feels liberating. It feels exciting! So many wonderful wonderful words, and sentences, and verses, and plays, available so cheaply for EVERYBODY to read!!!

But we don't.

We hardly do.

My housemate was surprised when I knew not just which play but which author she was quoting from - Shakespeare!

I think if pressed, most of my friends could recall the plot of Romeo and Juliet correctly, but ask them to take a stab at Lear, Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado or even Julius Caesar and they'd be stumped. There's been no movie out for ages (or at least, not one with Leonardo DiCaprio in, and therefore, not one that they'd have seen), and even if they'd worried their way through one or more of those in highschool English classes, the plots and dialogue have long fallen down the back of their memory-couches, next to the basic rules of algebra and how to thread a bobbin.

And that makes me sad...

I'm happy to leave algebra there, gathering dust and cockroach eggs, and I can remember how to thread a bobbin sometimes, so I don't much mind about that.

But I'd like to pull Billy out from under the couch, dust him off and have a look. I'd like to plumb the depths of his dating advice, get his best strategies for taking revenge on sworn enemies and glean his wisdom on cross-cultural relationships. You know, all the stuff that is so relevant to modern life.

Please vote (via commenting) on whether I should start with tragedy or comedy. The first play in the book is The Tempest (Oh Prospero!), but I'm happy to start wherever.