It all started with Tom Hiddleston’s ass.
OK, not really, but that is as good a place to start as any. I’ve actually been a casual fan of Shakespeare for a long time, but it was the recent Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus that inspired me to start this blog. I was delighted to have the opportunity to see the play through the NTLive broadcast (LIVE! I don’t think many venues in the US actually got it live!) But then I wanted to talk about it. Unfortunately, I was the only one in my RL circle who had seen it. And my on-line friends who had seen it were mainly interested the transparency of that white tunic (it’s NOT a toga, people!) or the tightness of those pants (really, Tom, what was in those pockets?) I wanted to, needed to talk about the play. Thus, a blog is born.
Not that I think anyone will ever read this, or if they do, that they will talk back. That’s okay. I just want a place to get my thoughts out so I can stop harassing my family with Jane’s Thoughts about Shakespeare.
But first, a DISCLAIMER. I am not, nor do I have any intention of becoming, a Shakespeare scholar. I wasn’t even an English major. I am just a person who appreciates Shakespeare, who thinks his works are often misrepresented (at least in the US) as High Culture when they are really entertainment meant for the masses. Anything written here is purely my opinion, and while I may consult (and cite) experts from time to time, I do not intend this to be a scholarly interpretation of anything. It’s just a venue for my opinions.
I think the reason most Americans don’t like Shakespeare is due to the way we first encounter it. Let’s face it, Elizabethan English is hard to read, and the forced reading of the plays (I really don’t need to specify whose plays, do I?) in High School turns most people off. Not only is the language difficult to understand, you usually get stuck reading it aloud, and you never get assigned the part you want, and if you DO manage to get Juliet, the guy who got Romeo is not the cute guy across the aisle but that obnoxious asshole in the back row. Shakespeare should not just be read; it should be PERFORMED, and not by the bored teenagers in your average HS English class, but by people who know how to bring that difficult language to life. Yes, read the plays, by all means (I am plowing my way through Coriolanus right now), but as a supplement to a really good performance.
Another barrier to the plays’ general enjoyment is the mistaken belief that they are High Culture, something for the educated upper classes to enjoy. Nope. Theater in Elizabethan times was more like cable TV. Look at recent offerings on the premium cable channels. You have Spartacus, DaVinci’s Demons, Game of Thrones, The White Queen, Sex and the City (OK, that one is not so recent), and so on. Not all that different from Shakespeare’s histories, comedies, and tragedies (if a bit more explicit).
I also think people have no idea how pervasive Shakespeare is in modern culture. We quote him all the time in everyday speech, mine his work for movie plots (Ten Things I Hate About You; Forbidden Planet, West Side Story, and many, many others), rely on his themes for superhero movies (Thor), perform his works in parks all across the country every summer. He is everywhere.
So, what will be here, in this blog? Well, for now, just about anything related to Shakespeare. The written plays, of course, and any performances/adaptations I can see. The sonnets, maybe, (but then again, maybe not, because they are associated in my head with my slightly creepy 10th grade English teacher). Shakespeare in the wild — any quotes, references, kitsch that I can find that is even remotely relevant. I expect some evolution eventually, but this is where I am right now.
Please remember, this will not be a scholarly blog, not even remotely. I may get pedantic from time to time (feel free to poke me
if when that happens), but I really am not trying to set myself up as any kind of expert. Other people can do that; I just want to express my thoughts without driving everyone around me up the wall.
Oh, and a warning. The will likely be cursing. Just because that is how I talk. In the end, they are just words, and it is the cultural baggage we assign to them that makes them ‘”good” or “bad.” Most of the curses I favor are good Anglo Saxon words; I do not think Shakespeare would have been offended in the least.
And finally, the Comments Policy. I know I said I do not expect anyone to read this, but a girl can dream, can’t she? As the main reason I started this blog is because I had no one to talk about Coriolanus with, I would be delighted to have thoughtful, reasonable comments. Please don’t flame me. I don’t care if you disagree with me; just defend it. You think Keanu Reeves was perfectly cast in Branagh’s Much Ado? Please, do tell me why! If I have made a mistake about something or you feel I have reached an erroneous conclusion, please tell me (politely). And very occasional fangirling (or fanboying) is okay. Because, along with his many other qualities (he really is an exemplary human being, one I feel privileged to share the planet with), when it comes down to it? Tom Hiddleston looks really good in a tight pair of pants.
What else? Coriolanus.
Want to read along? I am reading here, at least until I clean the sunroom and unearth my copy of the Complete Works. NTLive is still showing encores in some areas; check the website to see it there is one near you.