Birthday Weekend

Birthday petit-fours from my husband
Birthday petit-fours from my husband

It was my birthday this weekend. I have moved into a new demographic!

I decided I wanted to go to Northampton and Amherst for my birthday. There was a Poetry Festival in Amherst, but unfortunately, most of the events I wanted to go to were on Thursday or Friday before I could get there. Bummer. On Saturday, the Emily Dickinson House was sponsoring a marathon reading of all 1789 of her poems, but I really didn’t want to just dip in and out of that, so I wound up deciding to spend Saturday afternoon in Northampton.

Northampton and Amherst are college towns. Between the two of them, I count U Mass Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College, Mouth Holyoke College, and Hampshire College. I may be forgetting some. At any rate, they are close together, and with all those colleges, you can imagine the college-town vibe is strong. Northampton is definitely fairly funky, at least the downtown area.

We found a wonderful used bookstore. I loved it because the books were mostly in pristine condition. So many used bookstores don’t have really nice books, and most of them certainly don’t have the kind of selection Raven Used Books has. Here is my haul from Saturday.

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We went back today before leaving for home, and I scored two more books: Mary Sharratt’s Illuminations and Elena Mauli Shapiro’s 13 Rue Thérèse. The Club Dumas looks like it might be perfect for the R. I. P. Challenge, and who knew that there was a historical fiction novel about Hildegard von Bingen (Illuminations)? Byatt’s novel doesn’t have great reviews on Amazon, but I’ll give it a go. I loved Possession so much.

For my birthday lunch, we went to a burger place called Local Burger. Back when I was in college, I could get an excellent hamburger for about a buck at the cafeteria on campus. It had a nice charbroiled flavor, and it was juicy without being pink (pink ground beef skeeves me out). I hadn’t had a burger as good as those old cheap cafeteria burgers since. Until this one. And the fries were amazing.

We drove into Amherst and stopped into Amherst Books where I found a remainder of Remembering Shakespeare by David Scott Kastan and Kathryn James and Living with Shakespeare edited by Susannah Carson with essays by so many people—F. Murray Abraham, Isabel Allende, Brian Cox, Ralph Fiennes, James Earl Jones, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Smiley, Joyce Carol Oates, and many others.

Last night for dinner, we had some excellent Italian food at Pasta e Basta. I was “that person” and took a picture of my pasta because it was so pretty.

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I wish I could have brought my leftovers home. There was at least another meal left on that plate. I didn’t think it would travel well, though.

After dinner we picked up some cookies at Insomnia Cookies. Had such a thing existed when I was in college, I have no idea how big I’d be by now. We got four kinds of cookies, and I can definitely recommend the Double Chocolate Mint. I also tried Peanut Butter Chip, but the Chocolate Chunk and M&M cookies were all gone too fast.

This morning, we went to Jake’s for breakfast, and I had some fantastic eggs, potatoes, and toast. We walked around and did some more shopping. I found myself this glorious Brontë sisters mug with quotes from the sisters’ works.

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Northampton and Amherst are nice places to visit, and they’re only a little over an hour away. They have a different feel from other places in Massachusetts—perhaps because they’re college towns, or perhaps because they’re in the western part of the state. We don’t really have indie bookstores in Worcester, either (that I know of)—just B&N, so it was nice to go book shopping in those places and score some deals on some great-looking new and used books. In addition, everything was pretty reasonably priced—another of the virtues of a college town, I suppose.

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Steve and Dylan at dinner
Maggie and Me
Maggie and Me

Once I was home, Steve presented with two more books: A Loaded Gun: Emily Dickinson for the 21st Century by Jerome Charyn and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. He had already given me Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them. My parents sent me a gift card for more goodies from Amazon, too. I really need to do some reading!

P. S. I have no idea why the last image is upside-down on some devices. I can’t figure out how to fix it without deleting and starting over, though, so I just left it.

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Review: Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel Station Eleven is probably not a book I’d have picked up if it hadn’t been recommended to me, and what I would have missed!

Station Eleven is a layered novel about the world twenty years after the apocalypse. A virulent new strain of the flu almost completely obliterates the population of the earth. Kirsten was about eight years old when the flu struck. She had been acting in a production of King Lear on the night when the flu landed in Toronto, where the novel begins. The lead actor is suddenly stricken with a heart attack and dies onstage. Twenty years later, Kirsten is traveling with a symphony/Shakespearean acting troupe that has a circuit in the Great Lakes area, bringing art and entertainment to the small communities created in the wake of the Georgian flu because “survival is insufficient.” The novel connects the stories of Kirsten, the lead actor Arthur, the man who tries to save Arthur’s life, and Arthur’s friends and family.

Wow. This book was amazing. I didn’t want to put it down, and I almost stayed up really late last night to finish it, but I made myself stop reading so I wouldn’t be dragging today at work. It would be easy for some readers to say they’re tired of dystopian fiction or to say they don’t like science fiction and dismiss this book, but the book is not like the typical dystopian or sci-fi novel I’ve read. In fact, I understand that Mandel doesn’t really classify the novel in those genres herself. The balancing act Mandel must do by weaving the various threads together and by linking the themes is fascinating to watch in terms of the writing craft. She pulls it off. Most dystopian novels deal with the immediate aftermath of an apocalypse or dwell only in the darkest parts of the world left behind. Mandel sees a bit more hope for humanity than that. Even in the darkest times and places, people have created art so that they can feel human. I was reminded of the ghetto and concentration camp at Terezin when I read this book. Even the way in which Mandel weaves the various threads together doesn’t feel too contrived or coincidental (especially given how few people are left after the Georgian flu). It just works, and it works beautifully.

At the end of the world, what survive? And how? Would we even have any time for such frivolities as art and music? I’ll let Lear himself answer that question:

O, reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s. (2.4.304-307)

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Year of Lear, James Shapiro

James Shapiro’s new book The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 explores the period in which William Shakespeare wrote three of his greatest and most well-known plays: King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. Beginning with the Gunpowder Plot’s discovery on November 5, 1605, Shapiro explores the ways in which the political events of 1606 shaped the plays that Shakespeare wrote. Shapiro has turned the microscope on a year in the life of Shakespeare in the past. His book A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599 explores the year in which Shakespeare finished Henry V, and wrote Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and As You Like It. The Essex Rebellion and aging Queen Elizabeth figure large in that previous book as King James, the Gunpowder Plot, recusant Catholics, and the quest to unite the kingdoms of England and Scotland figure in this new book.

As I am currently finishing up a unit on King Lear, I was most fascinated by the connections Shapiro made between the intrigues of 1606 and that particular play, but I also gained a great deal of insight into Macbeth, a play I have taught more times than any other save perhaps Romeo and Juliet. Shapiro’s research is meticulous. When he doesn’t know or where the records are patchy, he speculates, but his educated guesses make a lot of sense in the context of the times and the plays. I haven’t actually read Antony and Cleopatra in many years, and if this book has a weakness, it is perhaps that it doesn’t explore that play in the same detail as it does the other two; however, this book is not meant to be literary criticism as much as an exploration of history’s influence on literature.

James inherited both the kingdoms of England and Scotland. Having been king of Scotland since infancy, he was eager to see his two kingdoms united and spent much of the year attempting to convince Parliament to approve the union. The division between Protestants and Catholics was at a peak, as Catholics were urged to take the Oath of Allegiance and to take communion at church. Shakespeare’s own home in Warwickshire was a hotbed of conspiracy and recusancy, and his own family was not immune. Shakespeare seemed to be at the heart of all the most important political events of the year—even a fresh outbreak of the plague touched him and influenced his plays in ways that modern audiences have difficulty appreciating.

I will read anything Shapiro writes about Shakespeare. He’s one of the most interesting Shakespearean scholars writing today. He manages to stimulate and challenge even those who think they know Shakespeare and have a thorough understanding of a given play, but he also manages to write accessibly and engagingly enough for the lay reader.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Sunday Post #35: Ghosts are In

Sunday PostI happened upon a Guardian article this morning that confirmed something I have suspected for a while: vampires are out and ghosts are in. Author Kate Mosse, quoted in the article, says

“We’re definitely seeing a resurgence after horror has held sway for a long time,” says Mosse. “The thing about horror is that it’s not that subtle; it’s a straightforward chase about the terrible thing that’s going to get you. With a ghost story the whole thing is, ‘Is it coming? Is everything in your head?’ Ghost fiction plays on those fears.”

I was more drawn to ghost stories for my R. I. P. Challenge reads this year. In fact, the three books I’ve read, Things Half in Shadow, This House is Haunted, and The Graveyard Book (a re-read) are all ghost stories. I’m reading two now that are sort of mysteries, but I can’t tell yet if they’re going to turn into ghost stories. I’m only one book away from finishing that challenge. I hope I can do it. Less than a week until the challenge ends.

Right now, I’m working my way through several books, but the three I’m reading most seriously:

A quick look at the reviews for this last indicates that the Shakespeare conspiracy theorists are out. Sigh. James Shapiro’s books are often targets for these folks. Don’t let them scare you off. Shapiro’s books are excellent Shakespeare scholarship.

Speaking of Shakespeare, today is the 600th anniversary of the famous Battle of Agincourt. I read this really interesting article about the battle at History Today. In honor of St. Crispin’s Day, here is Henry V’s speech from the Shakespeare play of the same name. Or you can listen to Kenneth Branagh deliver it.

I also found a piece in the Telegraph by historical fiction writer Bernard Cornwell on why we should remember Agincourt and a piece in the Catholic Herald about why we should forget it.

Speaking again of Agincourt, it had a mention on the most recent episode of Doctor Who, which I had to DVR and watch today. Ashildr tells the Doctor she fought in the Hundred Years War at Agincourt and could fire six arrows in under a minute. Cornwell says in his article that a good archer might be able to fire as many as fifteen arrows per minute. But I digress because what I really wanted to talk about was how awesome “The Woman Who Lived” was. I hope that they have Catherine Tregenna write more episodes in the future. It’s the first time in a long time I watched an episode and actually thought about how good the writing was. I’m not the only one who thought it was good.

Well, it’s time to make a nice cup of tea and curl up with my books now. Until next time.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

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Re-Reading King Lear: “Read Thou This Challenge”

I have mentioned before that I’m re-reading some books in preparation for teaching them. I have taught King Lear before, but it has been a few years, and a play as complex as Lear demands a re-read before any preparation for teaching it.

At one point, if you had asked me what my favorite Shakespeare play was, I probably would have said King Lear. I can’t say with certainty that my answer is still the same, but it’s because there are so many of his plays that I love. In fact, most often, I say it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I do love teaching Shakespeare. There is so much richness, and if I do agree with Harold Bloom on anything, I think I can at least agree that Shakespeare seemed to understand the spectrum of human nature like no other writer (I am not sure I’d say he invented the human). This play in particular examines the complexity of family in some really fascinating ways. I will be curious to see what sort of a backstory my students imagine for this family. Why would Goneril and Regan cut their father out? What had their childhood been like? Was Cordelia’s different? Ian McKellen says he imagines that perhaps Cordelia is the daughter of Lear’s second, more beloved wife, whom he lost in childbirth, and that when he looks on Cordelia, he sees this beloved wife. I find I like that idea quite a lot.

As I re-read, I decided to listen to a production. The Naxos Audio production is brilliant. A word to the wise: if you listen to this production and follow along, be mindful of the fact that it uses the First Folio text, which differs from some published editions of the play that also incorporate the First Quarto. Lear is played in this audio book by the great Paul Scofield. It was published to commemorate Scofield’s own 80’s birthday (Lear mentions being “four score” in the play). He is brilliant in the role. I actually teared up listening to his reunion with Cordelia in Act IV, and his tears over her death were also hard to take. Lear is hard; he casts away the daughter and servant (Kent) who love him in favor of those who tell him what he wants to hear, and finds out his mistake too late. He’s a hard man to feel empathy for, but Scofield definitely manages the task. Kenneth Branagh plays the Fool and Toby Stephens plays Edmund.

In addition to the Naxos Audio production, I also listened to a Shakespeare Appreciated production that includes commentary. I found the commentary, particularly the historical context, extremely helpful. If you are a student or really want to wring all the understanding out of the play that you can, I would recommend this audio version. I don’t think the dramatization is as good as the Naxos Audio production, but it is still good, and the commentary is especially helpful.

I am waiting on tenterhooks for James Shapiro’s new book The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 to come out (October 6!). Very excited to learn even more about the historical context that produced this play, especially because Shakespeare changed the ending familiar to audiences to a tragic one in which SPOILERS pretty much everyone dies.

Rating: ★★★★★

I’m counting this as my book set in Kent for the Reading England Challenge. Much of the action at the end of the play takes place at Dover. I’m counting it for the Historical Fiction Challenge, too, as it is set in ancient Britain, and Shakespeare was writing in Renaissance England. It does imagine a pre-Christian era in Britain. I can’t count it for R. I. P., as I started it before the challenge. It might qualify, though, if you want to read it for that challenge. Gloucester’s eyes being gouged out is the most ghastly thing in Shakespeare, if you ask me.

 

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Sunday Post #29: R. I. P. Challenge X

R. I. P. XI can hardly believe it, but this year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual R. I. P. Challenge, hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings typically, but this year by Andi and Heather of the Estella Society. I look forward to this challenge more than any other every year, and it think it’s mainly because it’s the perfect marriage of time of year (fall) and subject matter—anything creepy, scary, or as Carl says, “Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural.” I plan to go for broke and read four books. Might be ambitious considering I have a book club and school is starting, but I am going to go all in this time and see what happens.

I need to figure out what I am going to read, but my longlist includes the following books, some of which I already have and should read:

                  

It looks like a good list! Some of these books were on my list last year, and were probably there the year before. I really need to read the ones I’ve bought already, but I have to admit, I’m giving several of these books that I don’t own some rather longing looks.

Aside from starting the challenge, there isn’t much news. I have continued working my way through a re-read of both King Lear and A Thousand Acres in preparation for teaching them. I am also listening to the second book in the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, The Shadow of Night. I can’t count it for the R. I. P. Challenge because I started it before the official start date of September 1. I have some other books I pick up from time to time. I’ve also been re-reading the Harry Potter series and am nearly finished with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I really loathe Dolores Umbridge. She’s too realistic a villain. I’ve known crappy teachers like her, and yes, sometimes they go on to be crappy administrators. That book is a really interesting study of what happens when the government interferes with education. I understand the purpose of oversight, but when you have a bunch of people who know nothing about teaching running the show, you’re going to have a disaster. And frankly, this book is too accurate a portrayal of what that looks like in the real world, never mind Hogwarts.

So, are you joining me in the challenge?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Sunday Post #28: One Month of Reading

Sunday Post

It has been exactly four weeks since I have written a Sunday Post. I have had a pretty busy summer, but I didn’t realize I hadn’t updated in that long. I have made some excellent progress on reading goals, mainly because I’m teaching a new course this year, and I needed to read some of the books to prepare. I’m in the process of re-reading some others in order to have them fresher in my mind as I teach them.

Since I last wrote a Sunday Post, I have finished reading Gilead by Marilynne RobinsonThe Song of Solomon by Toni MorrisonThe Piano Lesson by August Wilson, and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have also been re-reading the Harry Potter series on my Kindle, which I find an easy way to get through those fat monsters at a faster clip. I am about a third of the way through my re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I also read The Complete Maus, but I didn’t review it because I think I have already reviewed it before.

I have completed the level of the Historical Fiction Challenge to which I had committed. I should go up another level. I’m nearly there for the next level, and there is still plenty of time. I’m just never sure how much time I’ll be able to commit to a challenge. I hate to say I’ve abandoned a challenge this early, but I have pretty much given up on the Literary Movement Challenge. I didn’t have time to get to the literary movement for May, and I just never moved forward from there. It’s okay. I had plenty of reading I needed to do for school. I’m doing okay with the other challenges, and I’m ahead on my total reading goal of reading 52 books, which is a good position in which to be, given I will most likely get pretty busy as school starts and will need some cushion time.

I have not added a lot of books to my TBR pile, which is a good thing, as it’s already too big.

 

Right now, I’m re-reading both King Lear and A Thousand Acres for my new course. I am really enjoying reading these books concurrently, and I am especially enjoying listening to the Naxos Audio production of King Lear featuring Paul Schofield as Lear, Toby Stephens as Edmund, and Kenneth Branagh as the Fool (and a host of other superb actors). I highly recommend it.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Sunday Post #15: Wuthering, Wuthering Heights

Sunday PostWhat has been happening this week? It’s been crazy busy. I haven’t had a ton of time to read, so I sat down and read most of today (with the exception of doing a little bit of work and washing the dishes). I have been spending most of the day wandering the moors, reading The Annotated Wuthering Heights. What a great addition to my library. I am truly enjoying it. Each time I read Wuthering Heights, I notice something I didn’t pick up on last time, and this time, it’s how horrible Nelly Dean is. I mean, I have often thought of her as mostly a reliable narrator, and because of her, I have really disliked Catherine. Heathcliff is just plain hard to like, no matter what. As soon as you start feeling sympathy for him, he goes off and kills lapwings for no reason or hangs a dog. Perhaps because I’m reading an annotated version, I am noticing so many more things than I ever have before. All the birds, for one thing; I’m sure I noticed that before, but even though the annotations don’t discuss the birds in a great amount of detail, I think my antennae are up, so to speak, and I’m noticing the symbolism more than I usually do. And there are birds just everywhere in this book. Another thing I am seeing are the close connections to the Romantic poets. The annotations help there, and I am really pleased I chose to read this one for the Literary Movement Reading Challenge. Hope I can finish it in time! Even if I don’t, I definitely want to finish reading this lovely annotated version. I realize a lot of people hate this book, but I think if you peel it apart and and see what makes it work, it is genius. I am especially enjoying the nuances I am noticing in Nelly’s character this time around.

I finished reading Pleasantville by Attica Locke and wrote a review for the TLC Book Tour this week as well. A good read. I am also still working away on Katherine Howe’s Conversion on audio. The reader for that one is really good. I recommended it to a bunch of my students this week when I saw it was one of their choices for a summer read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was top ten favorite authors of all time. You know, I am actually liking the idea of saving these for my Sunday Post instead of doing them on Tuesday. I just have less time to write during the work week. To qualify as a favorite author, I decided that I needed to love multiple books by the same author. So I didn’t count authors who have only written one novel. I also didn’t count authors if I had read only one of their works (even if I loved it). So here is my list:

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Jane Austen
  3. J. K. Rowling
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. Diana Gabaldon
  6. Ernest Hemingway
  7. Sharyn McCrumb
  8. Jasper Fforde
  9. Neil Gaiman
  10. Judy Blume

Who would be on your list?

Authors whose work I love, but whom I didn’t count because of my self-imposed rules are Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, and Emily Brontë.

Some links I enjoyed this week:

Here’s a bonus for you:

For the record, I have always believed it really was Catherine’s ghost who disturbed Lockwood early in the novel.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Sunday Post #8: Reading Challenges Update

Sunday PostMarch 1 seems like a good time to reflect on how I’m doing with the various reading challenges I’ve taken on this year. As of today, I’ve completed nine books. The goal of the Outdo Yourself Challenge is to read more than the previous year. So far, I’m on track with that challenge. I don’t think I have ever been in the position of having read nine books at the beginning of March before.

I’ve read four books for the Historical Fiction Challenge: Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel; The Wolves of Andover aka The Traitor’s Wife, Kathleen Kent; The Fiery Cross, Diana Gabaldon; and The Serpent of Venice, Christopher Moore. I committed to reading ten historical fiction books for the challenge. I’m currently reading The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. I’m only a little over two chapters into it, but wow, what a beautifully written, gripping read so far. I have to read it in small sips, put it down and think about it, and plunge in again when I’m ready. I got a pencil and went back over the two chapters I had finished and underlined my favorite parts.The Lotus Eaters

This is how the world ends in one instant and begins again in the next.

It seems early days to be predicting this will be my favorite read of the year, but perhaps not. It is gorgeous so far.

I’ve read three books for the Reading England Challenge:

I committed to reading twelve books for this challenge.

The Literary Movement Challenge involves reading at least one book a month for that month’s movement. So far, I’ve read one selection each for the Middle Ages and for the Renaissance: The Lais of Marie de France and As You Like It by William Shakespeare. I committed to reading twelve books.

The Back to the Classics Challenge involves reading classic selections from various categories. I committed to nine books and have read two:

This week I posted reviews for As You Like It by William Shakespeare and The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson. I am about an hour away from finishing Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning.

One last glimpse of The Lotus Eaters before I go.

The Lotus Eaters

 

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Review: As You Like It, William Shakespeare

I read William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It as my selection for the Renaissance era in the Literary Movement Reading Challenge. I had been wanting to read it ever since reading James Shapiro’s excellent book, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599.

For those not familiar with the plot, it’s one of Shakespeare’s cross-dressing comedies. Rosalind is the daughter of Duke Senior, the rightful duke. Duke Senior’s younger brother, Duke Frederick usurps his older brother’s dukedom. Frederick allows Rosalind to stay when he exiles his brother to the Forest of Arden because his daughter Celia loves Rosalind so much. Frederick arranges a wrestling match that is supposed to end in defeat for Orlando de Boys, but Orlando is victorious. He captures Rosalind’s heart. In a fit of pique, Frederick banishes Rosalind. However, Celia decides to leave with Rosalind as the two are close, and Celia cannot bear to see Rosalind exiled without her company. They decide to disguise themselves, Rosalind as a boy, Ganymede, and Celia as Ganymede’s sister Aliena, and they also decide to take the fool Touchstone with with them to keep them company. They plunge themselves into the forest, where they find Orlando has been carving Rosalind’s name on trees.

While in the forest, they encounter shepherds who help them find shelter. The shepherd Silvius is in love with a woman, Phoebe, who falls in love with Ganymede, not realizing Ganymede is Rosalind in disguise. Meanwhile, Orlando is hiding from his brother Oliver, who wants him dead. Orlando rescues Oliver from a lion in the forest, which leads to Oliver’s decision to change his ways. In typical Shakespearean fashion, everything works out in the end with a bunch of marriages. Oliver is further transformed by love for Celia and no longer desires Orlando’s destruction. Orlando and Rosalind find happiness. Rosalind manages to set Silvius and Phoebe together in a problematic marriage, and even Touchstone marries Audrey. Duke Frederick experiences a religious conversion and sees the error of his ways.

As Shakespeare goes, it’s not my favorite. I much prefer A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a comedy. However, I do see maturity in his characterization of Rosalind that had me wondering greatly about the boy actors in his acting company at the time he wrote the play. It would have taken a strong actor to pull off that part. I found her to be a refreshingly smart character, and in control of so much of the action. I liked her very much. As You Like It is perhaps most famous for Jaques’s speech “All the world’s a stage.”

I waited to watch the film version directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind before reviewing the book. She is a wonderful Rosalind. The cast is great: Celia is played by Romola Garai, Touchstone by Alfred Molina, the Dukes by Brian Blessed, Orlando by David Oyelowo, Jacques by Kevin Kline, Audrey by Janet McTeer, and that’s just a start. Set in feudal Japan, the story begins as Duke Frederick and a bunch of ninjas take over Duke Senior’s palace and send the rightful Duke and his men into exile in the forest. The setting change was interesting and still worked despite the importance of the Forest of Arden as setting in the play. The costumes were beautiful. The actors were fine. But I still didn’t like it, and I don’t know why. I liked parts of it, but as a whole, it was just sort of boring. I kept picturing how my students might respond to it if we watched in class, and I kept picturing them nodding off. I wonder if the issue with this play is that in order for this story to remain compelling, the action needs to move a little more quickly? I can’t put my finger on what was wrong with it, as I liked the elements separately. They just didn’t cohere for me. Your mileage may vary if you decide to watch it.

Rating: ★★★★☆
Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

Set in Warwickshire, this book will serve as my entry for that county in the Reading England Challenge and will serve as my Renaissance selection for the Literary Movement Challenge.

 

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