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review 2018-03-28 18:52
Globe
Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London - Catharine Arnold

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

I love going to the Globe, although I can’t afford it very often (but I still try to enjoy at least a couple of plays a year, which is the least I can do considering I almost live on its doorstep by London standards ;)). My knowledge about how it came to be was a bit fragmented, so I was glad to be able to read this book.

Throughout it, you can feel the author’s passion for her subject—the device of fictionalising Shakespeare’s first visit to London isn’t what I’d expect from academic research, and I’m not sure it’s pareticularly welcome, but on the other hand, it’s definitely a window on that passion I mentioned, and is entertaining no matter what. It’s also a window on London at the end of the 16th and the early 17th centuries, and I admit I wish this window would’ve been larger, because I couldn’t get enough details on what the city must’ve looked and felt like at that time, all the more now that I can fully compare it to nowadays London (Shoreditch for Burbage’s original Theatre, Bankside for the Globe, the Rose and Blackfriars’ locations, and so on).

I appreciated that the book chronicled the building of the modern Globe, which I believe is as much part of that theatre’s history as the original one, for starters because it’s on its way to last just as long and possibly more, considering the length of its current lease. I learnt about quite a few interesting facts in both cases, from the controversy around Sam Wanamaker’s project (an American trying to resurrect the Globe! So shocking!) to how the original Globe came to be, built from the timbers of the Theatre that Burbage & Co happily scavenged to keep their dream going.

The book also sheds light on the political and social climate at the time, an interesting part since Shakespeare’s plays were often in accordance with current events for his public to better relate. On the other hand, I believe I spotted some factual mistakes that may have been corrected through more careful editing (but I’m not a specialist, so, well, for what it’s worth…).

Conclusion: A good introduction that paves the way for more reading, although not going in-depth.

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review 2018-03-26 20:27
Hamlet / William Shakespeare
Hamlet (Cambridge School Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,Rex Gibson,Richard Andrews

I went to an encore screening of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch this weekend.  I went in a bit skeptical, thinking that he might be a bit too old to be playing the part of a young man in university, but he won me over.

 

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespearean play and it’s been a long time since I saw it performed.  It remains my fav, and I’m so impressed with how many quotes and sayings from the play are still widely used in current discourse.

 

The theatre, naturally, was filled with mostly grey-haired folk, so there was a bit of a universal snort when Hamlet tells his mother that she’s old and shouldn’t be interested in sex anymore!  Since this is the first time I’ve seen the play since losing my own parents, I found myself much more sympathetic to Hamlet’s situation however, expected to get over the death of his father in a mere two months! 

 

A most enjoyable experience.

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review 2018-03-12 14:28
Dunbar / Edward St. Aubyn
Dunbar - Edward St. Aubyn

‘I really did have an empire, you know,’ said Dunbar. ‘Have I ever told you the story of how it was stolen from me?

Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he handed over care of the family firm to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan. But relations quickly soured, leaving him doubting the wisdom of past decisions...

Now imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?

 

This is the Hogath Shakespeare’s version of King Lear, a play that I have seen performed at least twice in the last couple of years. It’s a powerful story and I would imagine that it would be a daunting piece to take on in a retelling such as this one, but Edward St. Aubyn was certainly up to the task!

I picked it up Sunday morning, meaning to just get a start on it. After all, I already knew the inevitable ending—everybody dies, right? But St. Aubyn’s creation grabbed me and would not let go! He made it fresh with Henry Dunbar, the media mogul, whose hubris has brought him low. I read the entire thing before lunch!

I was impressed by both performances of Lear that I’ve seen, but they both played up Lear as suffering from dementia, as that’s one of the concerns of modern society. But St. Aubyn returned to Shakespeare’s original intention, I think, that Dunbar is brought low by his desire to have privilege without responsibility. Like Lear in the play, Dunbar regains his wits just long enough to realize all that he has lost, a truly tragic ending.

I really loved the drunken comedian, Peter Walker, in his role as the fool. That was an inspired bit of casting on the author’s part.

How have I not read any of St. Aubyn’s work before? That mistake must be corrected!

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review 2018-03-11 12:41
Macbeth (Hogarth Shakespeare) - Nesbo Jo

When I was in high school, I was that weird girl in your english lit class who actually liked Shakespeare. The Hogarth Shakespeare project gave 8 authors a chance to recreate one of the Bard’s classic plays & when I heard Jo Nesbo was taking on MacBeth, I had to read it. And he’s done a remarkable job.

 

It’s a daunting challenge. After all, we already know who did what & how it ends. But Nesbo has given it a modern facelift by turning it into a dark, violent tale of cops vs criminals set in an unnamed city drowning in drugs & corruption. Poor old Duncan is the shiny new Chief Commissioner of police while MacBeth heads up the SWAT team. Other familiar names have been assigned to characters on both sides of the law, their roles staying true to the originals.

 

I won’t dwell on the story except to say this is decidedly bloodier than “the Scottish play”. But there are several things that make it work. First, the setting. Nesbo vividly describes his city & it’s a pretty bleak place. Relentless rain, dark streets full of skeletal junkies & rusted out factories litter the landscape. Now add in cops & politicians who have been bought & paid for by the rival drug gangs that rule the city. The result is a grim & gripping read that practically oozes moral decay.

 

And that of course is the point. Shakespeare wanted to shine a light on the psychological & physical ramifications for those who seek power for power’s sake, how ambition without morality leads to carnage. He also distinguished between the sexes. Not that women can’t be just as reprehensible. It’s just their methods that differ. In this story, MacBeth’s wife may not care to actually get her hands dirty but she’s more than capable of inciting violence with well chosen words whispered in the right ears.

 

Nesbo has nailed the themes & even sneaks in symbolic moments such as blood that won’t wash off. What I found most startling is how relevant something written over 400 years ago still is. But then all you have to do is read the news to find modern examples of his characters. It’s not an easy read but Nesbo pulls it off with style. My only quibble is the wealth of long descriptive passages that at times  stall any building tension.

 

As always, the wonderful Don Bartlett has done an outstanding job of translation. Recommended for fans of Shakespeare and/or gritty crime drama. If you’re keeping track of this series, next up is Gillian Flynn of “Gone Girl” fame taking on “Hamlet”.

 

 

                                       

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review 2018-02-03 09:38
The Oxford Shakespeare, William Shakespeare (and his collaborators)
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

It was fitting to end with Shakespeare's Epitaph on Himself, right?

 

I feel kinda weird; I started on my 18th Birthday but only made a serious push to get the job done much more recently. It's occupied the last couple of years, roughly, to make a concerted push to finish. And now I'm done. Weird.

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