This week's Booking Through Thursday is:
Okay, show of hands … who has read Shakespeare OUTSIDE of school
required reading? Do you watch the plays? How about movies? Do you love
him? Think he’s overrated?
I have to admit that the only Shakespeare I've read apart from my studies is his poetry, but that's not because I don't like the plays. It's simply that plays aren't designed to be read silently to yourself - that's what makes them so dull and lifeless when you see them on the page.
I've seen a few of his plays performed live by an outdoor theatre group that used to visit the town I grew up in every summer, and it really is the expression, the actions between the words, that brings it to life. I prefer the comedies, Much Ado About Nothing being perhaps my favourite, with Twelfth Night a close second.
While most of the film adaptations I've seen have been wonderful, a few don't quite work, for me. I think one of the amazing things about Shakespeare's work is how timeless it is - it's about essential human passions, love, pride, jealousy, ambition, and so on - and people will always be that way, no matter how much time has passed. If you think just how many successful modern adaptations have been made of the plays he wrote 400 years ago, I think that's pretty impressive. 10 Things I Hate About You is great, as is Joss Whedon's adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado was actually very interestingly done - it was shot entirely in black and white, and none of the dialogue was modernised, but it was set in fairly recent years, with modern clothing and context. I thought it was very clever and it was amazing how well it worked, with the combination of old and new balancing together perfectly. I don't think that the Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet works anywhere near as well, however - the original language didn't really fit the modern style or scenario, and the action had obviously been stretched to its limits to allow the language to remain in place.
As to my opinions of Shakespeare himself as a writer, I wouldn't say that I love him unconditionally. At such a distance of time, it's very difficult to prove that all of it actually IS his work, and given the absence of copyright laws and the collaboration culture of the time, it seems likely that the vast majority of it is at least heavily influenced by co-writers or leading actors. While many of his plays stand out as incredible timeless classics, there are a few less well regarded ones more condemned to obscurity, but I do think that most of his work shows him to be a very impressive playwright, with a wonderful understanding of human nature.