Wednesday, 18 March 2015

I come to bury Shakespeare, not praise him...

Imagine your favourite band or singer released 37 albums. If your favourite band is Nickleback, I can only hope that 37 remains a theoretical number, but I digress. Chances are that no matter how much you love that band, how many times you've seen them live, you'll freely admit that within the 37 there are at the very least one or two duffers that don't bear repeat listening.

Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, (See what I've done there?) and although amongst the ones I've seen, performed in or at least read (about a third, fact fans) contain some brilliant examples of his work, there are one or two that aren't all that and a bare bodkin.

I feel that this is an important thing to discuss. Shakespeare is so often put on a pedestal and lionised that the plays can be a bit intimidating on reputation alone. I wonder if that puts some people off. If thinking that Shakespeare equals high class and high quality means it is treated with kid gloves instead of being dived into, explored, criticised and appreciated on its merits rather than reputation.

I'm about to commit heresy now....I really, *really* dislike Romeo and Juliet. Yeah, I said it. Come at me, cuz. Romeo is a bloody idiot, not the perfect romantic hero. He spends the beginning of the play moaning about not being able to get his end away with Rosaline. He only meets Juliet because he is stalking Rosaline (Juliet's cousin. Jesus Romeo, how many women in Verona are there that you have to fancy 2 members of your family's deadliest enemies). Then the rest of the play's tragedy is pretty much his fault. He causes Mercutio's death, kills Tybalt, doesn't bother to get his facts straight before stabbing himself, guy's an impetuous jerk! The Friar isn't much better, lacking as he is in basic communication skills. It also has Benvolio, the dullest character in the history of theatre.

I like some parts of it, it has a really good nob gag ("What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man") and the Nurse can be quite fun. It just doesn't click for me.

The same could be said of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It was supposedly knocked off  in two weeks as essentially a bit of fan service for Queen Elizabeth, who wanted another play involving Falstaff. Although that is apparently not given much weight by academics today, it certainly has the feel of Shakespeare just crowbarring a character into a fairly average romp (think Carry On Falstaff and you get the idea). It isn't terrible, but compared to Much Ado or As You Like It, The Merry Wives of Windsor doesn't fare well.

Some plays are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them, but not all. And that's ok. Let's celebrate what's wonderful, discuss what we think isn't, and treat his work as the accessible, human work that it is.

Nothing he wrote is as bad as 'How U Remind Me' though......

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