I’ve officially been in my Shakespeare class for more than half a quarter, and with that experience, I have a clearer vision of our relationship. I know you all have been dying to hear about my transformation (or lack thereof) regarding one of the western world’s greatest authors, so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.
Let’s start with the positive: I adore Shakespeare’s sonnets. They are beautifully, cleverly, carefully, and mysteriously crafted. I love their words, their message, their elusiveness. The fact that no one really knows for sure who they’re written about only adds to their allure– this ambiguity gives each reader the opportunity to assign their own meaning to the poems without having to face contradiction from reality. (Not that we pay much attention to that anyway, but it’s still nice.) Scholars are free to argue the intentions behind them until the sun explodes, but I myself am perfectly content to read and appreciate what we have and ask no questions of their author.
Unfortunately, this was the high point of the class, and also the first portion. It only goes downhill from here.
After we wrapped up with his sonnets, we moved on to one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have no complaints about the play itself; it is what it is, and what it is is a bubbly rom-com. That being said, I now completely understand why curriculum tends to exclude comedies in favor of tragedies and/or histories. It’s great to read or perform or see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but when you’re legally and contractually required to actually dissect and discuss the play, you lose something. Or rather, you gain too much.
The simple fact is, it’s a comedy. There’s not a lot to discuss, which means we spent two weeks just beating the play into a bloody, meaningless pulp. The only reason Shakespeare left the flower nectar in Demetrius’ eyes is because it made for a happy ending. That’s it. There’s no deeper ulterior motive. The entire play is more or less the same way, so by the end of this unit, all the fun had been sucked out of it. On the plus side, I went into this with only an OID parody called A Midsummer Vacation’s Nightmare as a reference point, so that made for an entertaining commentary in my mind as we went through the work.
At this point in the quarter we had our midterm test (which I nailed), and now we’ve started on Richard III. I have only been present for one discussion of the play so far because I was too busy today laying in bed and trying not to succumb to the creeping crud to make it to class, so I’ve only read the first two acts largely on my own. And I am convinced that this is a comedy.
Yes, I know it’s technically classified as a history and it’s called The Tragedy of Richard III, but honestly, it’s hilarious. There’s literally an entire scene that’s just three separate factions trying to one-up each other’s personal losses. Most of the first act is Richard talking about how terrible he is, and then the women telling him how terrible he is, but I suspect that everyone’s going to be surprised anyway when he ruins everything. Maybe my perception will change over the next three acts, and I’ll certainly let you know if it does, but for now I’m still planning to write a parody of this and convince someone to cut it into a humorous prose script. I apologize to every disappointed English teacher out there, and especially Shakespeare. I know this isn’t what you intended, but I have four more weeks to get through and I’m going to do it any way I can.