Thursday, February 25, 2016

Friends, Countrymen, Romans - Shakespeare

This is meant as something of a news and notes post.

The three Roman plays, as I've come to think of them, complete a 'piece' from the Great Books.  These are, of course, 'Julius Caesar', 'Antony and Cleopatra' and 'Coriolanus'.  They make for very interesting reading, especially in a back to back to back case.
Each play deals with power in a different way.  Who should be kept from having too much power?  What can derail the path to power?  What kind of people are best suited for power?  And many other questions as well.  The best literature creates questions and discussions and these three certainly do that. 
I wonder how well these questions are presented to students of today.  Do they recognize the dangers in a figure like Caesar?  Or the different, but not unrelated dangers in a figure like Coriolanus?  Speaking of dangers, is there any more of a cautionary tale in the Roman plays than Antony's love for Cleopatra?  Do the youth of today know these lessons?  (I honestly have no clue.  I will try to make certain that my kids do.)

The next 'piece' from the Great Books that I plan on finishing is the one of the History quads.  This is 'Richard II, Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) and Henry V.  I've discovered a very good BBC version of these with the overarching title 'The Hollow Crown'.  I plan on working through them over the next month or so.
After those are done, there are only two plays left in the Great Books plan, 'Othello' and 'King Lear'.  Two other plays, 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth' came up earlier in the plan but I'll reread them this year.  I think there will be some benefit to redoing each in proximity to the other plays. 

In the meantime, between receiving the DVDs (thanks Netflix!), I think I'll work through the rest of the comedies.  There are 13 of them in total and I've already covered five.  Three of the other eight, I'm very familiar with from either reading recently ('Troilus and Cressida'), acting in ('Midsummer Night's Dream') or having seen the movie a couple of dozen times ('Much Ado About Nothing').  I thought about holding off on those until closer to the end of the year in case of a time crunch, but I the project has been going so smoothly so far, that I'm not as worried about a crunch [knocks on wood].

This is becoming a very Shakespeare heavy year and I'm loving it.

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