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Bookworm Encounters: William Shakespeare

Bookworm Encounters: William Shakespeare

Many of our first encounters with The Bard, William Shakespeare, could be traced to required reading in school. We asked our friends at Bookworm Corner, ahead of World Book Day — which also happens to be Shakespeare’s birthday — about their encounters with his work. We asked them which of his works were the first ones they read or saw on stage or screen, and which one they would recommend for those curious to explore. Keep reading for their stories.

 


Rebo answered:

 

What was your first Shakespeare story, play, or poem?

Sonnet 116 is the first Shakespearean sonnet I have read. We learned this in our literature class and this sonnet brought out the hopeless romantic in me. I feel like Shakespeare's commentary on love is on point and I've always loved this specific line from the sonnet: "Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove." He is indeed the love bard.

 

 

Which of his plays have you seen on stage or on the screen?

Romeo and Juliet

 

 

What do you like about his writing style or thematic explorations?

I love how Shakespeare has coined a list of 'everyday' phrases like: love is blind, be-all and the end-all, conscience does make cowards of us all, devil incarnate, it's Greek to me, etc... What would the English language do without him? Thank you, Shakespeare, for being a pioneer!

 

 

Which Shakespeare work would you recommend to someone who hasn’t tried his work yet, and why?

Exploring his sonnets would be a good starter — Sonnet 116 and Sonnet 18.

 

 

 

Ronvs answered:

 

What was your first William Shakespeare story, play, or poem?

Sonnet 116 when it was recited by Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby in the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility by Ang Lee. I memorized it because of that movie. I saw it in '95, barely understood a word, but there's the acknowledgement that it' s something special.

 

 

Which of his plays have you seen on stage or on the screen?

Romeo and Juliet (with Di Caprio, required in High School), both DVDs of Love's Labour's Lost and Twelfth Night performed at The Globe.

 

 

What do you like about his writing style or his thematic explorations?

All are done in verse.

 

 

Which Shakespeare work would you recommend to someone who hasn’t tried his work yet, and why?

Watch Twelfth Night, it’s funny.

 

 

 

Maryse answered:

 

What was your first William Shakespeare story, play, or poem?

Romeo and Juliet

 

 

What made you pick it up or try his work?

Read it because it was school requirement and I hated it. Read Hamlet after that (also for school) and I loved that.

 

 

Which of Shakespeare’s plays have you seen on stage or on the screen?

Saw Romeo and Juliet (Leo di Caprio version) on screen because it was Baz Lurhmann. Hahaha.

 

 

What do you like about his writing style or thematic explorations?

I love the “hugot” and the innuendos hehe. Shakespeare knew people and his characters reflect that. But beyond the reflections about humanity, I really like it when I discover a dirty joke or double meanings. And written in verse no less.

 

 

Which Shakespeare work would you recommend to someone who hasn’t tried his work yet, and why?

I would recommend watching a play. I think his work is best enjoyed on stage than read. For reading, Twelfth Night is easy and fun. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth are generally the requisites.

 

Kevin wrote:

 

The first Shakespeare play I read was Julius Caesar. I was in something like seventh grade, and I don't actually remember where the book came from, a beat-up old copy that looked as if I could have found it at a bus stop. It had minimal explanatory notes, but I still loved it, because the sound and rhythm of the language captivated me. (For example, fans of John Green may recognize the line "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / but in ourselves...") It remains my favorite Shakespeare play for the same reason.

I'm actually not much of a fan of watching Shakespeare on stage or screen, precisely because I prefer to pause and bask in the language. Having said that, Kenneth Branagh's version of "Much Ado About Nothing" is inspired, whip-crack quick and transcendently funny. It's one of the few presentations of a Shakespeare play that made me feel I actually connected to what was happening and what was being said while I was watching it. (Though it seems everyone wants to play the brooding, dramatic parts, Branagh is a comedic genius; don't miss his crackling repartee with Emma Thompson near the end of his version of "Henry V.")

To a new reader of Shakespeare, I might recommend "Romeo and Juliet" (because the broad outlines of the story are probably already familiar, but so much happens in that play that pop culture doesn't capture); or "Macbeth," because it's short and tense, the Shakespearean equivalent of a thriller. Mostly I would recommend picking up anything that sounds interesting, but just making sure to get an edition with good notes. (I favor the New Folger Shakespeare Library myself.)

Shakespeare said some things in ways so beautiful and poignant that it feels as if we may never need to find another way to say them. To read Shakespeare is to discover fresh beauties of the English language, and to deepen your ability to speak to and of humanity.

 


Join the conversation over at Bookworm Corner at Fully Booked on Facebook. Watch this space for more Bookworm Encounters.



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