“Now is the winter of our discontent…”
So ends the first month of my 2014 challenge: The Year of the Bard. And discontent I am not. Following are the plays I read and my impressions:
Measure for Measure– Considered a comedy, Measure was anything but amusing to me. In short, trying to reign in a city that has gone awry, a deputy temporarily in charge while the Duke is away jails a young man for bedding out of wedlock. The man’s sister, a nun, tries to save him from execution and ends up getting propositioned by the deputy: her chastity for her brother’s life.
In the end, the Duke returns and claims the importance of ‘measure for measure.’ But in my mind, he doesn’t live up to it. He pardons the deputy of all his offenses and instead executes a local ‘man about town’ whose only offense was talking smack about the duke. This play was just ok for me. I didn’t really care for any of the characters nor the ending, which was very unfulfilling.
The Tempest– Thought to be the Bard’s last play. I didn’t like it so much when I read it before, but ended up really enjoying it this time. I easily hammered it out during a four hour flight delay (it’s one of his shorter plays). The play is replete with retribution, romance and jest. A Shipwreck, a sorcerer, spirits and a mystical, remote island setting all make it a fun read.
Richard III– Is Richard III the evilest character Shakespeare wrote? I’d hate to see his match if not. Every time I thought he couldn’t possibly do more evil, the next several lines proved me wrong. Considered the play that “made” Shakespeare, Richard III very well could have been Shakespeare’s breakthrough. And I can see why. It has clever dialogue, more murders than I can count, battle scenes, ghosts, smart women and silly, power-hungry men.
What stood out to me was how throughout most of the play, the female characters were often isolated into their own scenes. It was the men who were always making mischief, and the women who paid for the greed and power grabs with the lives of their children, husbands and themselves.
I chose to read this play during the latter part of January to coincide with the Folger Theater’s performance of Richard III, which I will be attending in a few days.