Maggie Robinson

Jan 10
Shakespeare in Like

I Brake for Culture

I was an English major. My college even tapped me for the English honorary society. I took a million English courses, but just one in Shakespeare in my sophomore year. I had a dreadful teacher who must have been in the middle of a bad divorce or something. He seemed to hate Shakespeare, students, and women in particular. I have absolutely no recollection of a damn thing except I got a B. It might even have been a B-, the bastard.

I’ve pretty much avoided reading Shakespeare since then, but I’ve been to numerous stage productions and movies, even the highly energetic and amusing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) in London. I recently spent a delightful Saturday afternoon watching some of the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold mini-series, watching Much Ado About Nothing and Taming of the Shrew in nine nine-minute increments on YouTube at my computer instead of writing like I was supposed to. Set in modern-day England, the familiar plots got a distinctive twist. If you have the patience and frugality to follow my example, I highly recommend you do so, if only to enjoy luscious Rufus Sewall in high-heeled boots and eye makeup. Or you can order the whole four-part series on Netflix like a normal person.

Fess up. What classic English literature have you shunned?

15 comments to “Shakespeare in Like”

  1. Stephanie J
     · January 10th, 2009 at 7:16 pm · Link

    There will probably be people who never speak to me ever again for this comment: I can’t stand the Brontës. It’s true. Just thinking about Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights makes me cringe. Granted, I’ve only read those two novels but they’re enough to keep me far, far away from any other works, movies, adaptations, etc.

    I generally don’t enjoy Shakespeare but I’ve learned to appreciate his works. 🙂

  2. Janga
     · January 10th, 2009 at 7:35 pm · Link

    The Russian novels give me fits. I try, honestly I do. But they have more characters than Dickens, and I end up hopelessly confused and give up. I have never read–and probably never will–James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. And among the postmodern stuff, it would be easier to list what I have read than what I haven’t.

    I do love Shakespeare though (except for Titus Andronicus), maybe because I had a terrific undergrad professor. I can remember six of us, all English majors, who were friends, reading the plays aloud together to prepare for line tests.

  3. Maggie Robinson
     · January 10th, 2009 at 8:28 pm · Link

    Oh, Janga. Dickens. I tried. But I skimmed everything I was forced to read. I really want to see Ioan Gruffudd’s Pip in Great Expectations some day, though….but not try to read it again.

    Steph, I find the Brontes hardgoing too. I read somewhere as romance readers we’re either Austen or Bronte people. I guess I’m an Austen, altho I didn’t appreciate her at all either when I was younger.I can remember reading and rereading WH trying to make some sense out of it, and then just going. “What the hell was that all about?” *g*

  4. Tiffany Chalmers
     · January 10th, 2009 at 9:40 pm · Link

    Didn’t take any eng lit since I didn’t go past grade 13 🙂

    In fact, my English teachers in HS were all bitches of the first class. Insisted on failing me in most things because I didn’t follow some [mla?] formatting that made zero sense to me. Still doesn’t make sense to me.

    I think I barely passed English. All five years I took it. Funny, I wanted to be a writer before I hit HS, then during… well that dream got tucked away. I’m glad I didn’t completely bury it.

    So, I only read lit that I want to. No class stuff that I’m forced to get through. Actually in HS there was this book I HATED… stone angel… still gives me the shivers thinking about it.

    And I LOVE Kenneth Branaugh (sp??)and LOVE Shakespeare movies! I think the books are fun to read here and there now. But didn’t like dissecting them in school. That took the fun out of them.

    And I bet I’m a bronte… I should try before I commit to that, because sadly, I have trouble getting through austen. Just not ‘engaging enough’ for me, I think. Ah who the hell knows. I only tried one. [persuasion] skipped to the letter and closed the book.

  5. Elyssa Papa
     · January 11th, 2009 at 1:18 am · Link

    Ugh on Dickens. I had to read Great Expectations as a freshman in my Honors class, and when Pip treated Joe like dirt, I hated Pip with a passion. I had no sympathy as him for a character and didn’t want him to get his HEA at all. And I’m not a fan of Nabokov at all. Blech.

  6. rubyslippers
     · January 11th, 2009 at 1:39 am · Link

    Rufus Sewell — YUMMY! Thanks Maggie, he is quite delicious!

    Ok, focus… I confess that I fell in love with Wuthering Heights one rainy summer and since then I have been a fan of all things Bronte AND Austin! I’m such a schmuck!

    I’m with Janga when it comes to the Russian novels, though. I started several of them, but just couldn’t keep everyone straight — and that was back when I still had a fully functioning brain! I can’t imagine picking them up now.

    As for Shakespeare, I love good performances of his works, but I don’t really like reading them on my own. In the past when I had to read them for a class I always had to read them aloud!

    But seriously — thanks for Rufus!

  7. Maggie Robinson
     · January 11th, 2009 at 5:39 am · Link

    Ruby, I aim to please, LOL. I’ve always had a thing for Rufus, even when he plays bad guys, which is what most Americans see him as. I need to stick this picture on my bulletin board. But then maybe I wouldn’t write a thing but just stare and drool.

    Tiff, it truly is a shame when ‘required reading’ becomes ‘killing reading.’ I had to read Bleak House. Yes, it was bleak, LOL, not that I can remember one single thing. Mill on the Floss. Silas Marner. Lots of Shakespeare.I notice in the high school I work in the teachers have wandered far afield from the classics and read books which are much more relatable to the kids. There goes civilization, LOL.

    Ely, poor Charlie, who was the Nora Roberts of his day!

  8. terrio
     · January 11th, 2009 at 11:18 am · Link

    Didn’t do regular four year college so no Lit classes after HS. And what I had to read for school I don’t remember much about. Shakespeare would be one I know little about. I know what I’ve seen on stage and screen, but I’ve never read all his works. My guess is I’d appreciate and understand them more if I tried them now.

  9. BernardL
     · January 13th, 2009 at 11:01 am · Link

    Although a necessity in getting an English degree, one of the unintentional pleasures of college was Shakespeare. The best class I had was a post graduate Shakespeare study taught by an ex-Marine who had been involved in many of the island hopping landings against the Japanese. Getting a degree at night forced me into a few post graduate classes to fulfill my BA requirement, and that professor’s class was pure enjoyment. He pointed out phrases from each of Shakespeare’s works which became part of the lexicon of every succeeding generation, bringing Shakespeare’s greatness into distinct clarity. He mixed in his WWII experiences, which had the gritty ring of truth my post service mentality could pick out unerringly. I’ve never forgotten him or Shakespeare.

  10. J.K. Coi
     · January 13th, 2009 at 7:51 pm · Link

    I’ve been thinking about this, but honestly I can’t think of any. I love English literature–Milton, Malory, Chaucer, Marlowe, Shelley. But I could pass on Hemingway (although he wasn’t English)

  11. Maggie Robinson
     · January 13th, 2009 at 8:07 pm · Link

    Terri, I was talking to a student today who had checked out Pride and Prejudice from the library but just couldn’t get into it. I urged her to watch the movie and maybe try again. Usually I prefer books to movie adaptations, but sometimes our modern brains just can’t hack the archaic language. I think I appreciate Shakespeare so much more now for having seen so many of the plays/movies…and after all those words were meant to be performed.

    How I envy you, Bernard. My Shakespeare professor just about ruined him for me. My high school teachers were better—they actually made more of an impression on me, come to think of it, than most of my college teachers. Wonder what that means?

    JK, I guess when I think of English lit, I’m thinking of works in the English language, not necessarily Brit Lit. I read most of Hemingway a zillion years ago and have no interest in revisiting any of the novels. The same with Faulkner—just can’t do it to myself.I have become supremely intellectually lazy.

  12. J.K. Coi
     · January 14th, 2009 at 12:02 am · Link

    Ah, see. That’s where being Canadian comes in. We actually had Canadian lit, English lit, American lit.

  13. Kelly Krysten
     · January 14th, 2009 at 12:49 pm · Link

    Like Steph, I can’t stand anything the Bronte’s have written. But I love their life stories. I’ve read a million biographies(even the first one which was written by Elizabeth Gaskell-interesting to note that it was proven to be largely fabricated by Gaskell). I’ve even read all of the letters they ever wrote. Yeah, I’m a weirdo. I’m usually not a fan of the books I *should* like. I do love Shakespeare, though not all of his work. Romeo and Juliet is the worst drivel ever written IMO. Hamlet, OTOH, was amazing- nothing like a little ‘fake’ craziness to get me hooked.*g*

  14. Keira Soleore
     · January 16th, 2009 at 4:49 pm · Link

    Rufus Sewell….Oh, I adored him in Amazing Grace. I haven’t read Dante, Henry James, or Dostoevsky. How many ways can I spell tedious? One person I know keeps Crime and Punishment in the bathroom. I’ve been dying to ask him exactly what compells him to keep that door-stopper next to the toilet?

  15. Maggie Robinson
     · January 16th, 2009 at 7:14 pm · Link

    LOL, Keira. Maybe he just wants to impress his guests, and the Playboy is hidden under the towels.

    Kelly, Syrie James is coming out with a Bronte book like her Jane Austen one. I think I’ll read it, even though I am not a big Bronte fan. Although the recentish movie Wuthering Heights (1992, not really so recent) with Juliet Binoche and Ralph Fiennes did a pretty good job getting the story to make sense to me.