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  1. Hey everyone! I'm an English Literature student and right now I have to write an essay comparing Sonnet 27 with Sonnet 130. So far, I've got two major differences, and one similarity (that they are both parodies). But I need another similarity please. The only thing I can come up with is the really obvious ones, which aren't what my tutor wants. (I'm thinking about iambic pentameter, sonnet structure, and that they're love poems). I also read somewhere (outside of college stuff) that the first so many sonnets (including 27) were addressed to a man. Outside of those points, I'd just like to hear what other people think of the sonnets in general. Thanks for reading!
  2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/27/shakespeare-reworked-jeanette-winterson-anne-tyler I am not entirely sure that this is a 'great' project or why it is completely necessary. "To bring Shakespeare to a contemporary audience"? Well, his plays and sonnets have lasted over 400 years with lots of contemporary audiences to contend with and his popularity has rarely waned. I wonder if these 'cover versions' will simply be a re-working as in Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres or a Baz Luhrman type restyling.
  3. Was Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida pro or anti-war? What are some quotes, and solid reasons to back up each case? Thanks, Al
  4. I don't have much to add apart from wanting to be the first to mention this play, but the world première supposedly happened hereabouts this week. I'm no Shakespearean scholar so I can't vouch for how lost this 'lost' play of his actually was.
  5. A storm causes a ship wreck bringing those on board to be stranded on Prospero's island. Prior to this event, when Prospero was the Duke of Milan he was usurped by his brother Antonio who collaborated with a King to banish Prospero. No natural storm, it has been controlled by Prospero to bring his usurpers under his control and return him his dukedom, strengthened by the marriage of the king's son and Prospero's beloved daughter. Quite apart from this play containing one of the most audibily-pleasing lines in all of poetry: "Full fathom five thy father lies", it is the treatment of Caliban - Prospero's slave, borne of Sycorax, a black arts witch - that I find the most interesting aspect of the play. He is so monstrously treated, repeatedly called a monster with varying decriptions, and repeatedly called a 'mooncalf' - a miscarriage, babies believed to be interrupted in development by the moon's phases. We are given some reasons for his maltreatment; Prospero mentions that he treated the man with care until he tried to rape his beloved daughter Miranda, his hideous disfigurements, and the circumstances of his birth. However, despite all this I still find his maltreatment abhorrent. Especially so, the scenes in which he supplicates to Stefano (one of the disparate ship crew), in order that Stefano will kill Prospero for him and become his new master. I am sure the post-colonial critics will have a lot to say about him. I am also intrigued about Ariel, Prospero's invisible spirit, that carries out his magical machinations. She reminded me of Tinkerbell - and Prospero Peter Pan. I would love to see some variations of her character in performance. This is a highly accessible Shakespearean play, endlessly interesting in terms of his swansong piece.
  6. Outrageous that there is no thread on it!
  7. Devoted twins Viola and Sebastian are ship-wrecked, neither knowing if the other is still alive or dead. Viola washes up on Illyria beach, and to survive she adopts the disguise of a young male called Cesario and goes to work in the court of Orsino - the ruler of Illyria. Orsino himself, is obsessed with Olivia, a gentlewoman who resides in a grand house. Orsino employs Cesario to act as go-between, delivering his love to Olivia. However, Olivia find herself in love with Cesario. And to complicate things further Cesario (as Viola obviously) falls in love with Orsino. Before you try to work out how this will all resolve itself, don't forget that a male Viola does actually exist - Sebastian. While the main plot here is full of the stuff of comedy: disguising, cross-dressing, masquing, and carnivalesque, the subplot involving Malvolio (Olivia's head-servant and confidante) is less comedic. Malvolio, for his pomposity and ambitious grandstanding, is subjected to complete humilation at the hands of Maria (chambermaid), Sir Toby (Olivia's kinsman) and Sir Andrew (Toby's acquaintance). They trick him into believing that Olivia wants to marry him, by way of a fake letter - the staple of plot complication, and he immediately imagines the power and social status he will have in such a marriage. I really found his humilation and subsequent imprisonment for being 'mad' quite upsetting and beyond comi-tragedy. In performance however, Malvolio's predicament was less tragic. I watched the Trevor Nunn film starring the irreplaceable Nigel Hawthorne as Malvolio. I finally saw some comedy behind the man and his situation, especially when he struts into Olivia's room with his yellow stockings (as instructed by the ne'er do wells - Olivia hates yellow). His end is still not funny - and I just don't think it is ultimately meant to be. Normally, all is resolved by the end of a Shakespearean comedy - not this time.
  8. I came to Cymbeline completely anew, knowing nothing of the story, apart from the slim nugget that it was a 'romance'. I wasn't sure I wanted to read it either, after all, it's hardly one of those Shakey plays that has entered the collective consciousness. But the OU made me, as is so often the case with my life. King Cymbeline has a daughter Innogen who wants very much to marry Posthumus. In fact, she does secretly, much to Cymbeline's anger, and he banished Posthumus from the kingdom. Giacomo makes a bet with Posthumus that he will bed Innogen, after Posthumus's much boasted trust in his wife and English girls as a whole. Giacomo wins the bet - by nefarious means, and Post instucts Pisanio to kill Innogen. Pisanio, instead helps her disappear in Wales, disguised as a boy. Here she meets Belaruis and his two sons. Only, are they his sons? There is much in this play to enable it to be called a political play or even to be included in the Roman plays. It's up to the reader to decide if the Innogen/Posthumus plot is a subplot to the refusal of Cymbeline and his quite evil wife to pay Rome its treaty, therefore sparking a feud. Or vice versa. Ever the romantic (!), I much prefered the Inn/Post plot. Especially how Post could go from marrying the angelic, virtuous Innogen -the Madonna, to wanting her dead - the whore, and back again. The machinations of Giacomo make him a worthy villian, worthy of Iago-like notoriety. How he uses information to manipulate Posthumus is quite gripping. I believe George Bernard Shaw didn't like this play too much, criticisms of Innogen aside, he believed that the last act and the Welsh brothers plot was boring and incredible. Not in a good way, either. I can't agree - I think it is fairly typical Shakespeare: myriad plots that all tie up in the end with a satisfying resolution. I don't hold my chances well, but I'd love to see this forgotten and ignored play performed.
  9. The Scottish play. The bloody play. How's about the bloody good play? This is one of my favourite of Shakey's plays and thankfully studying it hasn't ruined that. An encounter with three 'weird sisters' (think 'weird' as in fate or destiny rather than odd) sets Macbeth on a murderous path. They prophesise that he will become the Thane of Cawdor then more and that no man born of woman will be able to stop him reaching his 'vaulting ambitions'. When the first prophesy comes true, not of Macbeth's doing, he and his wife collude (the balance of power in this marriage is open to interpretation), in events that decimate the line to the throne, leaving the way open for him to seize the crown. But to be safely 'thus' his machinations don't end there. I think this play has always been a favourite of mine because I am naturally drawn to the more violent and macabre aspects of story-telling, but I never really appreciated quite how torn Macbeth was till re-reading now. The balance of holding sympathy and horrifying the reader/audience is quite a complex and satisfying achievement.
  10. Labelled a 'problem play' by F S Boas in 1896, Measure for Measure supposedly borders comedy and tragedy. Comedy in that it follows the conventions of disguise, artifice, coincidence and the typical happy ending with the pairing off of all couples. This is all true, but the overwhelming mood of this play is dark, sinister, and troublesome. 'Tragedy' doesn't cut it really. This is a play about power, justice and sexuality - and the abuse of all of the above. The Duke leaves control of the unruly state of Vienna to the 'precise' Angelo. Meanwhile Claudio finds himself imprisoned, awaiting execution for impregnating Juliet. They aren't married, you see. Isabella, Claudio's sister, is a novice nun and she goes to see Angelo with a view to pleading for her brother's life. Her impassioned speech stirs a passion in Angelo previously unexperienced, and this leads him to make her an indecent proposal. If she will sleep with him he will release Claudio. But Isabella is no Demi Moore and she refuses. However, the sneaky Duke has disguised himself as a priest/friar, in order to spy on his state and test the righteousness of Angelo. When his abuse of power comes to light, the 'friar' intervenes and weaves a web around Angelo. This play is riddled, unfortunate phrase, with allusions to sex, syphillis, prostitutes, brothels, physical sexual disease...it's not a nice world, and the language reflects that.
  11. It's taken me a fair few days to get to grips with this play. One read through was just not enough for me to understand, and it took 2 film performances for me to finally click with Lear. Lear, full of pride, pomp, and a hint of narcissism, asks his 3 daughters to declare how much they love him. Goneril delivers a speech that so impresses her father that he gives her a third of his lands. Regan, outdoes her sister, by simply saying that Goneril spoke too small of her love, and earns herself a third of his lands. Cordelia cannot bring herself to declare as they do, simply acknowledges that she loves Lear as a daughter should love her father. Why do women, like her sisters marry, if it is true that all their love is for their father? Lear gives her third to the sisters, marries Cordelia off to France, and banishes her. What a mistake. Goneril and Regan involve themselves in the business of driving Lear mad, and seizing the power for themselves. Meanwhile, Edmond, bastard son of Gloucester, conspires to rid himself of his half-brother Edgar (full son of Gloucester), and in doing so is involved in the two sisters' machinations. Edgar is banished, under the mistaken belief that he has been traitorous and plotted his father's demise, and pretends to be mad to go unrecognised. While, quite frankly, some of the lines are enough to send you mad, there are some wonderful pieces, so engaging and visceral in performance. I loved the declarations at the outset, for their thinking, their calculations, and their endless performability. I loved Gloucester's torture at the hands of Goneril and Cornwall - so brutal and frightening. This won't be one of my favourites by any means, but it's hard to find fault with the plotting of the antagonists. And so to the performances. First up, I watched a 1976 Thames Shakespeare Collection film directed by Tony Davenall. This was old-school Shakey - no innovations, RP, standard sets and props...and a booming, poised, and perfectly enunciating Patrick Magee as Lear. Boring, staged, and over-rehearsed. This is the very thing that drives people screaming from Shakey. Next up, a viewing requirement of the OU, Grigori Kozintsev's (1971) King Lear, or Korol Lir, as it is in Russian. Brilliant stuff and finally brought the play alive for me. Gothic, gloomy, relentless and believable. The problem with the text and the Davenall film for me was that Lear's flaw as a tragic character was his pride and arrogance in his status and power. He so quickly goes from the declaration scene to the seeds of madness that it was hard to invest in the tragedy. But Kozintsev's film really spends time and visuals on creating the vastly powerful ruler, assured in his status and arrogant in his self-belief. Juli Jarvet, who play Lear, is a tiny man, especially so in comparison to the other cast members, and he does an amazing job of becoming this powerfully, arrogant ruler. Little by little, through costume and appearance the madness erodes him and he slowly, visibly pales on screen. Little changed about the outward appearance of Magee's Lear - a huge failure of the film. The storm scene, unlike Davenall's studio space with fake lightning and purple backlight, is played on cracked tundra, with ferocious rain and booming thunder you can feel to your toes. Lear is drenched as he pounds out those lines. Just an amazing accomplishment and one that will have me hunting out Kozintsev's Hamlet. I took one star off because I didn't think much of Edmond and Edgar - which was a disappointment. But I doubt you'll see a better Lear.
  12. Argubly, Shakespeare's most famous work, Hamlet is a tragedy and definitely one of my favourite plays. Young Hamlet is tortured by the death of his father and immediate marriage of his mother, Gertrude, to his Uncle Claudius. His father appears to him as a ghost and tells Hamlet that he was murdered by Claudius and that Hamlet is to revenge his father. The many soliloquies and near-perfect lines have almost become cliches themselves, and a good performance, to me, is judged by its ability to make you forget that these lines have been repeated to death. Last year, I think, I saw a theatre performance that didn't quite stop me from cringing at the lines; "to be or not to be...alas poor Yorick...get thee to a nunnery...". This weekend, in addition to reading the play text itself, I have watched 2 film productions of the play; Branagh's Hamlet, and Franco Zefirelli's. First up was the Zefirelli. Mel Gibson plays Hamlet, and quite a surprising performance it was too. I expected to see flashes of his Lethal Weapon character, but none was evident. He is a brooding, immature, sulky, petulant Hamlet from the off. We are presented with a medieval Elsinore, drab, cold, and grey and much of the 'ghost' action is played out on top of the castle on the battlements. It made for a great stage. What I didn't like about this production was really all down to Helena Bonham-Carter's Ophelia. There is no attempt made to make you believe that Hamlet and Ophelia were ever in love and there is very little sense of why or how she is sent mad. There is a preponderance of doors, windows and staircases in this film. Most of the characters, at most points in the play, are framed by at least one of these. It reinforces the sense that for Hamlet Denamrk is a prison. It illuminates the corridors of Hamlet's mind and he struggles to find his way. The doorframes, banisters, and window frames provide Gibson with 'props' with which to act against, show the restraints he exercises over his thoughts, and the prisons he acts against. The highlight, for me, was the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy which is delivered in the tomb vault which contains the sarcophagus of his father. A perfect setting for Hamlet's consideration of suicide, death, and the escape of dreams. Excellent stuff. Onto Branagh's. A completely different look and set. A colorful, modern, vibrant royal court set inside a snowbound landscape. The coldness outside is carried through indoors in the blue and white marble of Elsinore. Regal and lavish dress adorns the royals, and grand military garb for the courtiers. Hamlet is much more the insolent brat, playful with words, becoming the court jester at times, and much less the sense that he is wrestling with the torment of his father's murder. Ophelia though, wonderfully, is just as I would have her. In flashback, we are privy to her and Hamlet's lovemaking before the events that take place now. There is no doubting that they were a loving couple. The dramatic events following the 'rememberances' discussion is brutal, cruel, and soul-destroying - we see exactly how much Hamlet has hurt her and her abuse and sense of being used at the hands of Claudius and Polonius is apparent. She is also witness to her father's body being removed. So, here we see why and how Ophelia is driven mad - we feel for her and understand why she is a victim. Nothing like the Zefirelli production in which her madness is completely inexplicable. Out of the two, I'd say I prefer the Zefirelli version, I liked the setting, Gibson's Hamlet, and the use of the set to embellish the speeches. The Ophelia is awful and if I could transport Branagh's/Winslet's Ophelia to Zefirella's Elsinore, I would.
  13. I wasn't much looking forward to this play - Roman and Egyptian history doesn't interest me too much, and well, it just didn't feel like my kind of play. Not nearly enough blood and drama. And to be honest, after reading it, and now having listened to an audio performance of it, I wasn't much wrong. Antony, is married to Fluvia but having an affair with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Fluvia dies and Cleo expects to step into her shoes, however her plans go awry when to make peace with Caesar, Antony marries Caesar's sister Octavia. In her fury Cleo switches allegiance to and fro, as does Antony's right hand man Enobarbus, and war is raged between Antony and Caesar. The prose in this play is extremely varied and convoluted and just doesn't flow as well as other works. Plus it is pretty low on any good, solid, meaty drama. Cleo is a vain minx, and extremely hard to like. There is absolutely no empathy with her and therefore that makes it hard to stay engaged. There is really only monologue that I really enjoyed, when Enobarbus realises his grave error and wishes to die. I'll post it when I have the text to hand. All I can say is, thank the lord I don't have to do an essay on this one, 'cause I'd be struggling to get passionate about it.
  14. As Shakey's plays go it is always the tragedies first for me, then the histories then the comedies. And this is one I really enjoy. Richard II is either a vain, immature, blaspheming King who is prone to excess or a just King, Christ-like in his humility. But at the heart of this play is the question whether an anointed King is untouchable and King by right or if a King should be regarded just by office. When Richard banishes his cousin Bolingbroke and Mowbray after they both accuse each other of treason, he 'appropriates' Bolingbroke's inheritance (land, title, property, money). When Richard goes off to fight the Irish (with Bol's money) Bolingbroke mounts an invasion of England to take back what is his and eventually depose Richard, which is the initial stage in the Wars of the Roses. The whole play, language, structure and imagery is carefully balanced to give both sides of the divide, never does Shakey intervene and come down on either Richard or Bolingbroke's side. Likewise, you never really know if Richard is just or unfit for office, or if Bolingbroke is an ambitious usurper and fighting for a just right. This is much more my to my taste than AMND, I much prefer the rhetorical language, the historical angle, (I won't say realism because Shakey is 'elastic' with historical fact), and the complex divide between two cousins.
  15. Hard to believe this is the first thread for one of the Bard's works, but I am sure it won't be the last. The first play of my Shakey course this year and a nice way to start. The fairyland intrudes on the human world after the humans intrude in the fairyland. There are many strands to this play but a quick synopsis of the plot goes like this. Theseus intends to marry Hippolyta. Egueus approaches Theseus for help with his wilful daughter Hermia, who refuses to marry Demetrius as she loves Lysander. Egeus wishes to exercise Athenian law which allows him to kill his daughter should she not marry Demetrius. And this is a comedy?! Helena loves Demetrius but he doesn't love her. Lost in the forest the four young lovers are met with mischief at the hand of Robin Goodfellow whom acting upon the wishes of Fairy King Oberon, drugs the wrong man and the ridiculousness and flippancy of young love is presented at its most comical. Meanwhile, Oberon drugs his wife, the Fairy Queen, Titania, to fall in love with the first beast she spies on waking up, who happens to be an artisan called Bottom wearing as ass's head (see michevious Robin Goodfellow). Now it's quite difficult to discuss or review a complex play such as the ones Shakey was wont to create, in isolation, so I do hope that fellowe Shakey fans in the BGO membership join in and an interesting discussion ensues. I will say that, while I enjoyed the play very much, and love the malevolence in Fairyland, I wasn't immediately sold on Act 5 - the artisans' playlet Pyramus and Thisbe - it just seemed a little unnecessary and detracted form the main thrust of the play. Of course my study books quickly put me right, but study never entirely changes your opinion. My particular highlight was the details of Robin's error - it was deliciously mischevious.
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