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review 2020-04-26 23:19
As You Like It
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

Love is merely a madness, and I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.

I loved this quote. As You Like It is probably most famous for its "Seven Ages of Man" speech, which is fabulous of course, but it was the above quote that called out to me most in this play. 

 

As You Like It started out as an interesting story, with the old Duke exiled by his brother, the Duke's daughter being best friends with the new Duke's daughter. 

And of course, there we a few young men, who had no idea what they were doing or what they were looking for really - and there was a fool. Or were they all fools?

 

The theme of exile had promise for development into something, but Shakespeare didn't take up the challenge here. I guess he wasn't ready for that play, yet. The Tempest would develop later, so would The Winter's Tale.  

 

The idea of star-crossed bonds had promise, too. And this is an idea that Shakespeare used before, yet again only hinted at but chose to not really develop in this play. 

 

So, what was left?

 

Not a lot. 

 

Despite an interesting start, Shakespeare seemed to have lost interest, or time, or both, and basically fell back on the same formula of farcical and really, really dumb romantic comedy that made Comedy of Errors look like a bonkers but inane masterpiece. 

 

I am seriously done with Shakespeare's comedies. ... Tho, I know, I still have at least one more to suffer through (The Merry Wives of Windsor). 

 

Nevertheless, there is one thing I would like to recommend: I mentioned  the Arkangel Shakespeare productions in reviews of previous plays, but with respect to As You Like It, the Arkangel audio production really was what held my interest on the play until the end. 

The production included musical pieces for all of the songs included in the play, and those were brilliant. 

 

So, I feel like I should rate the play and the production separately:

 

Original Play - 2*

Arkangel Audio Production - 3* 

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review 2020-03-31 21:41
Much Ado About Nothing
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor
Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare

That was fun, but I'm still no fan of Will's comedies.

 

Still, this was one of the better of the comedies I have read so far (I am not a fan of A Midsummer Night's Dream) and there are elements that I really loved in this:

 

For one, there are ideas in this play that seem to re-appear in later plays, and in more thought-out scenes.

Once Shakespeare was fond of an idea, he seemed to use them again and again. 

 

There was one particular plot element that resembles one in Romeo and Juliet so much it made me laugh.

There was another that foreshadowed a scene in a much later play.

 

I have said this before, but even if I don't love every play I am reading during this project, I love seeing the development in the way that Shakespeare wrote the plays.

I love seeing themes develop and scenes and plots become more complex. 

I love how he develops his characters more deeply as he writes more plays, how their voices and personas become more confident and more comfortable in their own skin, and how this seems to give the author more time to focus on the content of the play, on the ideas, rather than having to convince the reader/audience of his ability to create characters. 

 

And yet, apart from the interplay between two characters, which in itself seemed like an attempt to make good and re-write the messed up relationship we got to witness in The Taming of the Shrew, I just could not get into the play as much as I had hoped. 

Maybe this was because there still seemed to be some elements of the plot that too much resembled some of the unreasonable courses of action of other Elizabethan revenge plays, when I had come to expect more...and better.

 

As for comedy, no, that just was not Will's forte.

 

So, even tho Beatrice and Benedick were fabulous, they could not make up for some of the other ridiculous plot twists and unfathomable characters.

BENEDICK Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.

BEATRICE A dear happiness to women. They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

BENEDICK God keep your ladyship still in that mind. So some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate scratched face.

BEATRICE Scratching could not make it worse an 'twere such a face as yours were.

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-03-09 01:10
Henry IV (Parts 1 & 2)
The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,John Jowett,Gary Taylor

I started my Henry IV journey last weekend, and have spent all week thinking about the plays, or rather play as in my mind the two parts need to be combined to give the full story. I'll continue referring to both parts as the combined "play".

 

After first reading the play, and after watching the first adaptation I had chosen (the interpretation of The Hollow Crown series, starring Tom Hiddleston as Hal and Jeremy Irons as Henry IV), I ended up with very mixed feelings about the play.

I liked only about half of the play.

That is, I liked the parts that dealt with King Henry, the wars, his attempts to expand and defend his reign, and the relationship between the King and the Prince of Wales, Hal.

 

I loved learning that this would be the play that gave rise to another work that would draw from the Victorians right through to the 20th century. From William Blake's poem to the, oftentimes mindless, rendering of the hymn Jerusalem in various institutions. 

Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,

Whose arms were moulded in their mothers' womb

To chase these pagans in those holy fields

Over whose acres walked those blessed feet

Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed,

For our advantage, on the bitter cross.

 

Very early on, we have the above lines that very clearly set the agenda of King Henry, to expand his kingdom, by conquest and invasion, and thereby, as we learn in Henry's later advice to Hal, to ensure his legacy would be the establishment of a powerful reign which should serve to let people forget that Henry IV himself, the former Henry Bolingbroke, was not a king by birth but because he snatched the crown from his cousin Richard (as told in the excellent Richard II). Now Henry is struggling to keep the kingdom together and feels the burden of the "hollow crown" that Richard prophesied to him.

How many thousand of my poorest subjects

Are at this hour asleep?

0 sleep, 0 gentle sleep,

Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,

That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down

And steep my senses in forgetfulness?

Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,

Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,

And hushed with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,

Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,

Under the canopies of costly state,

And lulled with sound of sweetest melody?

O thou dull god, why li'st thou with the vile

In loathsome beds, and leav'st the kingly couch

A watch-case, or a common 'larum-bell?

Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast

Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains

In cradle of the rude imperious surge,

And in the visitation of the winds,

Who take the ruffian billows by the top,

Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them

With dealing clamour in the slippery clouds,

That, with the hurly, death itself awakes?

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose

To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude,

And in the calmest and most stillest night,

With all appliances and means to boot,

Deny it to a king?

Then happy low, lie down.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. 

The whole setting of the scenes that deal with Henry's drive for justification of his position and his frustration that his son apparently has no interest in, to borrow a phrase from Terry Pratchett, "kinging", are fabulous. Henry is not a power-crazy king, he's aware of the burden on him and his reign, and he is aware of the quality of other contenders to the throne.  And all of this creates some great basis for dramatic tension between Henry and his son Hal/Harry. 

Yea, there thou mak'st me sad, and mak'st me sin

In envy that my lord Northumberland

Should be the father to so blest a son—

A son who is the theme of honour's tongue,

Amongst a grove the very straightest plant,

Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride—

Whilst I by looking on the praise of him

See riot and dishonour stain the brow

Of my young Harry.

O, that it could be proved

That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged

In cradle clothes our children where they lay,

And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

When we're not spending time with Henry and his Nobles, we spend time with Hal/Harry, who behaves like the cliche teenage drop-out, something that apparently has not changed throughout the centuries. 

 

There are reasons for this, which do make Hal a little bit likeable, but overall I could not stand half of the play because Hal behaves like a little spoiled brat, and hangs out with people who quickly and severely got on my nerves. To the extent event, that I considered skimming all of the parts where Sir John Oldcastle, aka Falstaff, made an appearance. 

Maybe I went into reading the play with a misconception, maybe I should not have expected Falstaff to be funny or witty or set much stall by the number of quotes taken from Falstaff's speeches. 

I did not find him funny, or witty, and truth be told I hoped someone would kick his butt and soon. So, when I learned that not only would Sir John appear in Part 2, and further plays, but would actually take up about half of the pages in the combined play, I may have reached for wine to dull my annoyance with this idiotic, spineless, arrogant vulgarian. 

PRINCE HARRY Why, thou owest God a death. [Exit]

SIR JOHN 'Tis not due yet. I would be loath to pay him before his day.

What need I be so forward with him that calls not on me?

Well, 'tis no matter; honour pricks me on.

Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on?

How then? Can honour set-to a leg? No.

Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No.

Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? No.

What is honour? A word.

What is in that word 'honour'? What is that 'honour'? Air.

A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday.

Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. 'Tis insensible then?

Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living?No.

Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I'll none of it.

Honour is a mere scutcheon.

And so ends my catechism.

[Exit]

I fully get that Falstaff is needed as the counterpoint to Hal's growing up. I really do, but I just loathe him so much that I could not enjoy parts of the play at all. I literally cheered when Hal decides that is now time for him to put away childish things and step up to the role he has known all along he must take up, and severs all ties with the acquaintances of his wild youth. 

I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers.

How ill white hairs becomes a fool and jester!

I have long dreamt of such a kind of man,

So surfeit-swelled, so old, and so profane;

But being awake, I do despise my dream.

Make less thy body hence, and more thy grace.

Leave gormandizing; know the grave doth gape

For thee thrice wider than for other men.

Reply not to me with a fool-born jest.

Presume not that I am the thing I was,

For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,

That I have turned away my former self;

will I those that kept me company.

When thou dost hear I am as I have been,

Approach me, and thou shalt be as thou wast,

The tutor and the feeder of my riots.

Till then I banish thee, on pain of death,

As I have done the rest of my misleaders,

Not to come near our person by ten mile.

For competence of life I will allow you,

That lack of means enforce you not to evils;

And as we hear you do reform yourselves,

We will, according to your strengths and qualities,

Give you advancement.

I really liked Hal when he was talking to his father. I also liked him when he finally stepped up to his role, not just because he grew up, but also because he was not a pratt. He saw qualities in other people, even his enemies, he tried his best, he mourned for his friends of all ranks. 

Now I am really looking forward to reading Henry V and finding out how Hal grows even further (or does he?) in his years as king. 

 

Overall, I like the play, but it took some time and watching two adaptations (The Hollow Crown and the Donmar Warehouse production with Harriet Walter as Henry IV) to get to the point where I could appreciate the aspects that I liked over the aspects that I seriously disliked. It's not a play I would recommend outright or watch again, but I would revisit certain scenes in text form.

 

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review 2020-02-28 02:22
Review ~ Awesome!
Popcorn and Poltergeists - Nancy Warren

Book source ~ Kindle Unlimited

 

Lucy Swift is getting very good at running her undead grandmother’s knitting shop in Oxford. Cardinal Woolsey’s is running smoothly and the vampire knitting circle is producing hand-knitted items at an incredible rate. Well, they are vampires after all so they knit very fast. The classes Lucy has set up are also taking off and she has a sneaking suspicion her newly undead grandmother is thinking of opening a new knitting shop somewhere far enough away that she won’t be recognized by former customers. Lucy’s not quite ready to let her grandmother go though, but she knows she’ll have to do it soon. Which is why she’s trying to up her studying of all things witchy. Oh, didn’t I mention that part? Lucy is also a witch. And so was her grandmother. Now that she’s got a handle on running the store, she needs her gran’s help with the witchy things. And then there’s the occasional murder to solve. Yep. I said it. Murder. And let’s not mention her love life. Who am I kidding? Let’s!

 

Rafe Crosyer is a very old vampire and the unofficial leader of the group in Oxford. He’s been there so long that he needs to think about moving on soon. But Lucy just got there and she’s not ready to move again. Plus, while Rafe is yummy and protective and smart and all that good stuff, he’s also a vampire. Who won’t age while she will. Dilemma! Of course, there’s Inspector Ian, but Lucy seems to have written off the good officer. Well, pooh. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing where Rafe and Lucy’s relationship heads.

 

Now, to the murder…it’s an interesting one. There’s  a poltergeist in St. Mary’s College library! And with someone dead, Lucy and the vampires think that maybe the poltergeist had something to do with it. In any case, Lucy wants to figure out why the poltergeist is there and how to move it along before someone else gets hurt. Or worse.

 

I love this series of cozy mysteries with vampires and witches and love and humor. This particular one seems to better put together than the previous ones though I love them all. It flows easily and while I had my suspicions about the killer it still kept me guessing until the end. The addition of the poltergeist is a nice touch and I like how Lucy is finally taking her witchy abilities seriously. I hope there are many more books in this series.

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2020/02/popcorn-and-poltergeists.html
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review 2020-02-15 19:18
Review ~ Disappointing
Cat's Paws and Curses - Nancy Warren

Book source ~ Kindle Unlimited

 

American Lucy Swift is really enjoying running her grandmother’s knitting shop in Oxford. She never thought she would, but here she is. Of course, her grandmother may be dead, but she’s not dead-dead considering she’s a vampire. So Lucy has the benefit of her wisdom as well as that of the whole vampire knitting circle. Lucy has been holding a knitting circle nights right before Christmas so her customers can have a place to knit presents for family. But one evening, when the lights go out and one of the knitters is murdered, the murderer has to be in the same room. One of her knitters is a murderer! What?

 

I love this series because it’s cute, humorous (yes, even with a murder or two), and there’s the paranormal aspect with the knitting vampires and all. Plus, magic because Lucy is also a witch. But this one seemed a tad rushed to me. Maybe because it’s a short story instead of the usual length. It just seemed a bit lacking which is why I dropped the rating down from my usual. However, it’s still a nice mystery and I got to see Rafe and Ian. I wish Lucy would give Ian more of a chance. Rafe is ok, but she seems adamant that she will not be with a vampire, so Ian would be more her speed, even though he’s with law enforcement. Or maybe she needs to meet a witch instead. I’m curious where Lucy’s love life is heading. Looking forward to book 9.

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2020/02/cats-paws-and-curses.html
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