Sunday, June 23, 2024

Enjoying Shakespeare

Most of my knowledge of Shakespeare comes, not from studying the plays in English classes, but from attending annual student productions at the college where my parents taught and I eventually attended. Milton College had a tradition of annual Shakespeare plays dating back to the 19th century. I've seen yearbook pictures of WWI casts that were entirely female since most of the guys were serving in the military. My brother and I from a very young age were taken to whatever was being performed that year. In preparation, Dad would read us a summary of the plot from Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. I was reminded of that today:
First published in 1807, it contains retellings of 20 of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. The Lamb siblings weren’t trying to dumb down the language or stories, they were simply hoping to give newcomers a more understandable introduction to these plays. Often, it’s easy to get stuck on the unfamiliar language and trip on the allusions, and these mishaps can make us lose the whole thread of the plot. Many characters, some major and many minor, zip on and off stage, adding to the confusion. Tales from Shakespeare, however, aims to fix some of that by giving the plots in as straightforward a manner as possible and including enough of the Bard’s language to give a thrilling glimpse to eager readers. ....

Whether you’re a long-time lover of Shakespeare’s works or you couldn’t name a single one of his plays; whether you’re a Stratfordian or an Oxfordian; and if you never could figure out whether Hamlet was crazy or not, Tales from Shakespeare is a wonderful addition to any library. Read it aloud to your children or dip in and out for your own pleasure — this delightful introduction to some of the greatest stories, prose, and poetry in the English language is a treat.

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