After finishing this trilogy of plays, I’m left feeling differently than I expected I would about Shakespeare. Firstly, I am quite pleasantly surprised to find that I’m enjoying the experience immensely. These plays are likely not the best on offer from the bard, yet even so are a lot of fun to read. I do not feel like this has just been one long homework assignment, rather a fun project that takes a bit of work, but is ultimately satisfying. I cannot wait to get to the plays I’m more familiar with, because I think I will read them differently now and get a lot more enjoyment out of them.
This brings me to another realization that has slowly been dawning on me: this is not particularly difficult to read. The edition of the Collected Works that I have has an overabundance of footnotes to assist in a close reading of the text, but I have found myself skipping those and just reading the plays cold. Sure, there are some things that don’t quite make sense, or words that are unfamiliar, but it’s easy to pick up the gist of things from contextual clues and everything moves along so fast that it’s a simple trick to just skip over some troublesome language.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Billy Shakes has a hell of a way with words. Every act of every play has had some memorable line in it that seems to me the perfect turn of phrase or a wholly original way to state something. I talked last time about my favorite line coming from Richard after he is ordered to refrain from killing the erstwhile queen. He says, “Why should she live to fill the world with words?”. It is such a vicious, nasty thing to say, that I feel like it tells us a lot about his character and perhaps who he will be in his play coming up next. He is an amoral, petulant, violent narcissist who is in hot pursuit of ultimate power. This characterization is cemented when he storms off after being thwarted in the murder of Queen Margaret and steals into the Tower of London and murders Henry instead. What an evil and conniving bastard. I’m beyond excited to see more.
As much as I’m enjoying this experience, I still don’t feel like I have much of a feel for Shakespeare. This is fun, but I don’t necessarily understand why his work is still held sacred hundreds of years later. Perhaps I’ll see some of that in Richard III.