Monday, December 31, 2012

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

What better way is there than to end the year with a book review? I don't have any new year themed books, but if we're talking literature, we can't forget The Bard. So today, let's appreciate a book about Shakespeare(:

Now don't get me wrong, I love The Bard, but sometimes, his plays are hard to understand. In fact, without all those explanatory footnotes, I might never understand them (although once you know what he's talking about, you'll love it).

Shakespeare on Toast attempts to demystify The Bard's work without dumbing it down. This means no simpliflying the language (yes!) or talking down.

What this book does do, however, is to first introduce the reader to the Shakespearean time. After you learn about how Shakespear's plays were first experienced, a lot of things make sense. No wonder my favourite play is King Lear, it's the only Shakespearean play I've been able to watch acted out. So if reading the books confuse you, go and watch it! I bet there are videos on youtube of people acting them out.

After that, he teaches you how to appreciate the play. One particularly useful section was the "False Friend", where certain well-known words had different meanings. It's something you should definitely keep in mind, because if you think of the word with it's modern meaning, you risk mis-understanding the whole play.

Of course, he does mention the "Thou" vs "You" thing. Did you know that in Shakespeare's time, "thou" was used as an intimate term? Makes it different when you realise that a lot of people talked to God with the word "thou". In contrast, "you" was a lot more formal. So just by taking note of these two words, you can infer a lot about the relationships between the characters.

Finally, after we go through rythmn (which was actually really useful. He managed to demystify the iambic meter enough that I understood what he was saying), we have an "example" where one scene in Macbeth is analysed. It's awesome. I need to go and watch MacBeth.

The language of the book is generally friendly and accessible. The book itself ends on a very encouraging note:

"No matter how complicated, no matter how ostensibly random, how annoying, boring or just plain bad a scene or a line seems to be, there is always a reason for it being there. 
You just have to find out what it is. 
And I promise: the search is always worth it."

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Happy New Year! I'll see all of you in 2013 :D 

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