“What, with my tongue in your tail? nay, come again,
Good Kate; I am a gentleman.”
– Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare is alright
Like every kid in America who had to read Shakespeare during high school, I thought it sucked. The plays were written in something that might as well have been another language, the stories themselves had been retold to death, and the jokes were difficult to understand. I wasn’t a fan.
Recently I finished The Taming of the Shrew and actually liked it. While it isn’t the best book that I ever read, and is still a bit overrated in my opinion, I actually kind of got what was going in. In the past I’ve always had to turn to summaries in order to get the general idea of what was going on, but this time I actually managed to figure things out on my own.
Reading through this play also made me realize something else, I was missing out on a lot of the experience. The story is meant to be a play, text alone can’t do it justice. It would be like reading the lyrics to a song, you’ll always be missing something.
To prove my hypotheses I decided to then go and check out A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I saw a really good play version of, and proved myself right. The story and characters were a lot better in theater than they were on paper. Additionally it was easier to understand everything that was going on.
Shakespeare is actually pretty good. He’s works aren’t, in my opinion, “magical” like a lot of academics love to blather on about, but they are fun. The stories are good, there are some funny jokes, and some of the innuendo still holds up. With that said, I’d recommend either seeing the plays acted out, or listening to them on tape. You’ll get a lot more out of the experience.