Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s intertwined love polygons begin to get complicated from the start–Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia but she only has eyes for Lysander. Bad news is, Hermia’s father wants Demetrius for a son-in-law. On the outside is Helena, whose unreturned love burns hot for Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander plan to flee from the city under cover of darkness but are pursued by an enraged Demetrius (who is himself pursued by an enraptured Helena). In the forest, unbeknownst to the mortals, Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of the faeries) are having a spat over a servant boy. The plot twists up when Oberon’s head mischief-maker, Puck, runs loose with a flower which causes people to fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking. Throw in a group of labourers preparing a play for the Duke’s wedding (one of whom is given a donkey’s head and Titania for a lover by Puck) and the complications become fantastically funny.

Continue reading

Review: The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, but it remains deeply controversial. The text may seem anti-Semitic; yet repeatedly, in performance, it has revealed a contrasting nature. Shylock, though vanquished in the law-court, often triumphs in the theatre. In his intensity he can dominate the play, challenging abrasively its romantic and lyrical affirmations. What results is a bitter-sweet drama.

Though The Merchant of Venice offers some of the traditional pleasures of romantic comedy, it also exposes the operations of prejudice. Thus Shakespeare remains our contemporary.

Continue reading

The 2015 Shakespeare Challenge

This year, I decided to start what I call the “Shakespeare Challenge”. Basically – and how its name says -, I’m going to read all of Shakespeare’s works and try to review all of them. Neither of those objectives is easy, though the first one gets easier the further I get in the challenge – I mean, because I got used to his language and writing.

The second task is even harder because his works have been studied for such a long time that I have almost nothing to say. Thus, my reviews are not going to be analysis on his works – they will merely my opinion on them. I will review Shakespeare’s works the same way I do with all books.

Continue reading

Review: Cymbeline

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

Cymbeline also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobeline. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance. Like Othello and The Winter’s Tale, it deals with the themes of innocence and jealousy. While the precise date of composition remains unknown, the play was certainly produced as early as 1611.

The plot of Cymbeline is based on a tale in the chronicles of Raphael Holinshed and is ultimately derived from part of the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth about the real-life British monarch Cunobelinus. Shakespeare, however, freely adapts the legend and adds entirely original sub-plots. Iachimo’s wager and subsequent hiding-place inside a chest in order to gather details of Imogen’s room derive from story II.9 of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Continue reading