Friday, August 9, 2013

Review Me Twice: King Richard II by William Shakespeare

Reading about history - history I'm not well-versed in, anyway - and reading Shakespearean English: two things I'm not usually terribly excited to do. That did not change over the course of reading this play, but I didn't hate it.

Whenever I read something by Shakespeare, I either read about the history behind it - like with this one - or I read a detailed plot summary. It sounds like cheating, but really, it's allowing me to pay closer attention to the language than to the details of the plot (because I already know them). Remember what I said about translating while reading when we discussed Le Petit Prince last month? Reading Shakespeare is a lot like translating, unless you get one of those versions that's "translated" for you (and therefore isn't in the right meter, doesn't rhyme, and is basically useless). So it's helpful to know the story outline in advance, so you can be sure of what's happening. (Honestly, Cassy messaged me at one point to tell me she knew this guy had just died, but the manner in which he died was uncertain. Those are the kinds of problems you run into with Shakespeare sometimes.)

A play that starts with two guys having a financial dispute before the king doesn't seem like it's going to get much better... but then they challenge each other to a duel, and off we go! Of course, it takes an age and a half to get into the tournament, but then things get a little more interesting, and... well, I told you the ending yesterday, since it's based in history.

So all in all, I liked it, but it's not a brisk and simple read by any means. But who expects Shakespeare to be that?

I was discussing this book with Alex the other day and talking about how I had to catch up on the books for the blog.  My exact words to her were, "Hopefully, I'll breeze right through Richard II."

I should know that one never breezes through Shakespeare, but it didn't take me LONG.  The thing with Shakespeare is, that even after four years of high school, four MORE years of college (where I majored in English) and another five years of reading for my own personal enjoyment, Shakespeare never got easier to swallow over the years.

Did I dislike the play?  Well, no, because we all know my obsession over English history (and this beings the Tudor reign.)  It was enjoyable, but a lot of times, I miss what's going on.  I often read summaries or at least the history behind it so I know I didn't miss any important plot points.

And, you know, Shakespeare is one of the most famous writers ever for a reason.

"Then thus I turn me from my country's light
To dwell in solemn shakes of endless night."

I mean, COME ON!!  Who can write like that anymore?  It's this awesomely beautiful rhyming couplet about how a guy is super depressed that he's being banished from his country.

Over all, I enjoyed the play, but it is Shakespeare, so it's not exactly light reading.

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