Thursday, March 31, 2016

Books Read in March

I just realized that I completely missed doing one of these for February.  And now I can't remember what I read that month.  Well, one book, but I'm sure I read more than that.  Oh well! 
  • The BFG, by Roald Dahl - This was new to me.  (I read this in February at the insistence of my daughter.  We read 'The Little Prince' together and I read this as part of a deal.  Both books have movies coming out and we wanted to be prepared.)  The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant.  He is part of a society of giants, but he is the most humane of them all.  This book is a critique at human societies pitched towards children, especially in respect to war.  Very good, very creative and I enjoyed it.
  • The Just City, by Jo Walton - I really enjoyed this one.  The premise is that the goddess Athena has plucked people from all over time and space to recreate Plato's 'Republic'.  They do this as faithfully as they can.  They even purchase slave children so they can free them and raise them by the described methods of Plato's work.  After some years have passed, Athena brings Socrates to live in the city and, well, he does his own special thing.  Highly recommended.
  • Hyperion, by Dan Simmons - A reread for me, but I barely remembered anything.  This is a science fiction work set some centuries in the future.  It centers on a group of pilgrims on a journey to beg wishes from a killing entity known as the Shrike.  Each pilgrim tells their story, much like in Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'.  Each story has its own style and the whole adds up to a very good mystery.
  • The Fall of Hyperion, by Dan Simmons - The sequel to 'Hyperion'.  This was new to me.  The first book simply ends with every loose end, well, still loose.  This book did an excellent job of tying everything up, which isn't always true with 'mystery' style books.  Not as good as the first one, because the individual stories are so much more compelling, but still worth reading.
I think that's it.  I've been very busy with the actual Great Books books.  As I write this, I've completed 13 of the 59 pieces that I have left.  (I had envisioned this as a three year project, but now I'm thinking that two years is a definite possibility.)  I've also finished 17 different plays by Shakespeare since the beginning of the year.  Barring some catastrophe [knocks on wood], I should finish all 38 with time to spare. 
One casualty that I've had is the short story project.  It never really came together on my end and I've been more interested in other things.  I feel a little bit bad about this, but not overwhelmingly so.  It's a worthy project and I'm sure I'll return to it.  Just not in 2016.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Henry IV, Part 1 - Shakespeare

The 'Henriad' continues.  Henry IV is older now and a more established king.  His son, mostly called Prince Hal, is the primary focus.  Hal has fallen in with a group of rogues and scoundrels, most notably a huge man named John Falstaff.  Very early in the play, Falstaff decides to rob some men in the forest.  Prince Hal decides to make a game of this and, along with his friend Poins, he will then rob Falstaff.  They do this, not for the money, but to see what kind of story Falstaff makes up to cover the fact that he has been robbed.  The series of thefts happen and Falstaff does indeed run off like a coward. 
Meanwhile, the king is back at the castle and he is lamenting the sad state of his oldest son.  There is a threat to the north, carried to an extent by a man named Hotspur.  King Henry IV wishes that his son had as much of the ambition and drive as Hotspur.  The king sends men to summon Hal to the castle.
Prince Hal is at the Boar's Head tavern with Poins.  Falstaff and his men arrive and tell the tale of how they were beset by dozens of men (instead of two).  The prince tells him what really happened and Falstaff is momentarily stunned.  But only for a moment.  Then he tells the prince that he knew what was happening the entire time, but couldn't really attack the heir to the throne.  Shortly afterwards, both Falstaff and Hal pretend to be Hal and the king.  This ends with Falstaff 'holding court' over the tavern.
Hal is taken back to the castle and the king is angry with him.  He upbraids him for his behavior and choice of friends.  Hal is chastened.  Preparations are made to go north to face the rebels, led by Hotspur.  Once there, the battle commences.  Hotspur and Prince Hal happen to face each other singly, with Hal winning and killing Hotspur.  The king now sees him in a different light.

It's hard to believe that this could have been written as a standalone play.  The story is deep in character but very shallow in plot.  Prince Hal, who becomes Henry V when crowned, is an important figure in English history.  A play about his upbringing would not simply stop once he defeats Hotspur in combat.
There is an early speech from the prince where he talks about how he is simply with the common folk for the time being, but will break with them when he needs to.  It's hard to know what to do with a speech like this.  To take it at face value makes Hal a conniver of the first order.  It's far, far easier to believe that he played with rogues and scoundrels and then rose to be worthy of majesty at a later time.  But that isn't how Shakespeare presents him.

The headline character of the Henry IV plays is Falstaff.  He is a very large man, but not just in girth.  He also has a larger than life quality.  He is a master at wordplay, even when wrong-footed.  When the prince accuses him of something, he quickly finds a way to explain how the prince got the wrong end of it.  There seems to be a genuine affection from Falstaff to Hal.  Maybe in return as well.
Falstaff also represents a curious balancing act as well.  We, the audience, are drawn to him.  (In some ways, he is a very large precursor to roles like Han Solo.) 
However, he is also steadily corrupting a crown prince.  Hal isn't just some boy, he will someday be king of the realm.  Can he do this in any good way if Falstaff has a say about it?  Doubtful.  In the very opening scene of the two of them together, Falstaff tells Hal not to hang any thieves when he is king.  The implication is clear, Falstaff thinks there is too much law and order and he wants the throne to agree with him.  I imagine this would have been terrifying to the general populace.

This play was also new to me.  It's hard for me to see it plucked out from it's place in the 'Henriad' and enjoying it simply on its own merits. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Richard II - Shakespeare

'Richard II' opens with a feud between Henry Bullingbrook and Thomas Mowbray.  They each accuse the other of treason (i.e. talking out against the king) and cowardice.  Richard II, the king, tries to get them to settle their differences amicably but they won't do so.  Instead, they will fight in single combat.  They ready themselves, but before the fight begins, the king stops it.  Both of them will be exiled.  Bullingbrook for ten years (later reduced to seven), Mowbray for life. 
Bullingbrook's father, also Richard II's uncle, is a man known as John of Gaunt.  Some years later the king is summoned to Gaunt's deathbed.  Gaunt insults the king before dying and when he dies, the king takes all of his land and inheritance, in part to fund a military expedition to Ireland.  His advisors caution him against this, but he is king and will do as he will.
In response, Bullingbrook breaks his exile and returns to England.  There he finds support among some of the other nobles.  King Richard II is in Ireland and unable to oppose him and the king has little support among those still in country.  When Richard II arrives home, his cause is lost. 
Instead of giving in to Bullingbrook's demands of inheritance and safe return to England, Richard II abdicates the thrown.  He will be deposed, and names Bullingbrook, now known as Henry IV, his successor.  He does this freely, but with great regret. 
After this, he is taken off to be held in the Tower and then another castle.  There are plots to put Richard back on the throne and the new king wishes that he was out of the way.  Supporters of Henry IV kill Richard and bring him to the king.  Henry IV is heartbroken.

This play was entirely unknown to me.  I read a bit of English history before starting in and the basic plot lines seem accurate.  Richard II comes off as weak, or at least not strong enough.  He is surrounded by toadies and yes-men, and they have weakened him. 
The scene where he is deposed (Act IV, scene 1) is simply astonishing.  Richard II is being ripped from his expected place in the universe and he has enormous trouble coming to grips with this.  He must give up this power, and he will, but how can he not BE the king? 
K. Rich. Give me the crown. Here, cousin, seize the crown;
Here, cousin,
On this side my hand, and on that side thine.
Now is this golden crown like a deep well
That owes two buckets, filling one another,
The emptier ever dancing in the air,
The other down, unseen, and full of water:
That bucket down and full of tears am I,
Drinking my griefs, whist you mount up on high.
The entire scene must be a difficult one to play.  Richard has an internal weakness, in that he can't see the universe through anyone else's eyes.  As he speaks, we come to pity him.  In many ways, it would have been easier for him if the crown were torn away in battle.  The act of giving it away, undoes him.

The speech that is probably the headliner in this play comes from John of Gaunt.  As he lays dying and regrets what has become of the king and kingdom, he speaks of the wonder that is England:
This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England...
Simply gorgeous.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Links to the Past

Why we should praise the works of translators link

Shakespeare's skull, probably stolen link

Epictetus and the pursuit of happiness link

Why We Should All Learn from the Classics link

Is the Bible More like Plato or Copernicus? link

Dungeons and Dragons with Philosophers (Existential Comics) link

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Peloponnesian War - Thucydides

(This is in regards to Books VI, VII and VIII.  My previous posts dealing with Thucydides are here.  The posts specifically about the Peloponnesian War are here and here.  A timeline of the Greek conflicts and writers, which I found very useful, is here.)

The reading plan called for reading just books seven and eight, but I decided to start with six instead.  And boy am I glad that I did.  The books break down roughly like this:
  • Book VI deals with the decision to break the peace and invade Sicily.  It includes arguments both pro and con and deals with the actual invasion plans.  It follows the reaction on Sicily (especially Syracuse) and other important cities.  It ends with the a large group of Athenians and allies camped outside of Syracuse.
  • Book VII starts with the Spartan response.  It follows the Spartan soldiers who were sent to help Syracuse.  It then deals with the various battles and eventual surrender of the entire Athenian army there.
  • Book VIII deals mostly with conflicts all over the Aegean Sea.  The Spartan side would foment revolt and the Athenians would try to tamp it down.  Meanwhile the Persian king kept both sides hoping that the Persian fleet would help them.  While this was going on, an oligarchic revolt succeeded in Athens.  The book ends with the defeat of the Athenian fleet in the Hellespont.
Of the three, Book VI was easily the most interesting.  Nicias argues against the invasion.  He talks about long supply chains and lack of friendly territory to retreat to.  Most ominously, he says "I affirm, then, that you leave many enemies behind you here to go there far away and bring more back with you".  This turned out to be exactly what happened.  Athens created a powerful enemy in Syracuse and other cities.  Even setting aside the material loss, which was enormous, the invasion created suspicion among other cities that they could be next.  Suddenly, Athens faced revolt everywhere else.
The pro argument was mostly borne by Alcibiades, who made an explicitly pro-Empire argument.  If Athens could conquer Syracuse, the rest of Sicily would fall in line.  Once Sicily (which was a major grain producer) was Athenian, conquering Italy would be easy.  After Italy, they could wipe out the Peloponnesian (read Spartan) threat.  He said, "Moreover, we cannot fix the exact point at which our empire shall stop; we have reached a position in which we must not be content with retaining what we have but must scheme to extend it for, if we cease to rule others, we shall be in danger of being ruled ourselves". 
The results for Athens were disastrous.

Monday, March 21, 2016


I've finished the 'Peloponnesian War' and I'm saying goodbye to the Greeks (for now).  But I'm not moving all that far forward, just to the Roman period.  It's back to the Stoics (I think) with Epictetus and his 'Discourses'.  I thought about going with Virgil's 'Aeneid' while I still have the Trojan war fresh in my mind, but decided to go a different way.

Meanwhile, I'm about four Shakespeare plays behind in reviews.  I've been trying to decide if I should review the history plays before I'm done with that tetralogy or not.  I'm leaning towards waiting but we'll see what happens. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Odyssey, More Observations - Homer

It makes sense that the voyages of Odysseus would be the part of the story that is most remembered and retold.  That's where the bulk of the action is.  The episodes of trouble are incredibly rich and memorable.  But they make up very little of the story that we have now.
One of the repeated themes of the Odyssey is that of hospitality.  Every place that Odysseus lands he is either given princely hospitality by people or his life is threatened by monsters (or monstrous goddesses).  There was simply an expectation that if some strangers blew up onto your shores, you treated them well. 
On the contrary, the suitors wooing Penelope abused all notions of hospitality and were bad for eating Penelope and Telemachus out of house and home.  They had their own nearby homes and should have stayed there eating and drinking.  Instead, they abused propriety.  They were also cruel and obnoxious and they died for these faults.
Another theme is that of growing up.  Telemachus is trying hard to grow up to be worthy of his father, who he doesn't know.  He wants to be heroic even though he isn't certain what he has to do.  He is guided (literally) by the advice of Athena, in various guises.  Even near the end, she guides him so that he can share part of the heroism of the slaughter of the suitors.
The other theme that I want to mention is just how much interplay the gods have with the lives of these mortals.  Telemachus is guided at every step by Athena.  Odysseus is helped by her too, but not always and not directly.  He was cursed by Poseidon and she was limited in how much she could counter that.  It's hard for me to think of the Greek gods as being that involved with each mortal life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Troilus and Cressida - Shakespeare

Troilus and Cressida are lovers that are trapped in the city of Troy during the Trojan war.  Cressida's father, Calchas, has fled the city and thrown in with the Greeks.  This has brought great shame and difficulty to Cressida.  Fortunately for her, one of the princes of Troy, Troilus, has fallen in love with her.  He loves from afar.  The two rely on Pandarus, her uncle, to go between them.  He does this by heaping praise on Troilus without a hint of subtlety.
The lovers storyline is fairly plain.  There is a bit of 'will she/won't she' because Cressida is coy with her love.  In fact, one of the key questions that I had while reading this, is whether or not she really 'fell' for him or was she just playing him off.  She is a maiden in a very difficult spot, both because of her father's betrayal and the fact that the city could be taken at any moment.  Could she afford to love?  Or must her affections be bartered only?
Actually, there is another problem.  Her father bargains to have her traded out of the city, thus breaking up the lovers after they have just been joined.  Cressida immediately starts flirting with the Greeks.  Troilus sees this and is devastated.

The other part of the story, possibly the bigger part, is the story of what is happening with the Greeks on the beach.  They talk (at length) and the only interesting part is a scheme that Ulysses uses to bring Achilles out of his tent.  He does it by making him jealous of Ajax in an upcoming fight with Hector.
There is also some interest in talk between the Greeks and Trojans as to whether the war is worth it or not.  Here is Diomed, a Greek, talking to Paris, who abducted Helen and kicked off the whole problem.  He is talking about Helen:
She's bitter to her country. Hear me, Paris:
For every false drop in her bawdy veins,
A Grecian's life hath sunk; for every scruple
Of her contaminated carrion weight,
A Tryoyan hath been slain. Since she could speak,
She hath not given so many good words breath
As for her Greeks and Troyans suff'red death.
This is certainly a defensible, if cynical take.  It's a very cynical play with very little happiness or nobility.  We believe in a) Troilus' love for Cressida (which is betrayed) and b) Hector's chivalry (which gets him killed).  That's about it.

From what I've read, this is probably the hardest Shakespeare play to categorize.  It's labeled as a history but all of the other history plays are historical kings of England, while this story is recognizably from fiction.  It could be a tragedy, though it doesn't quite follow the rules of the tragic play.  Ask me in a few months, and I'll have an opinion on whether or not it is a 'romance'.
It is put into the comedy section mostly because it was originally printed there.   No one is sure if that was intentional or not.  So a comedy it is, even though it isn't funny or happy.  Many comedies end with a wedding.  This one ends with battle and death.
Not my favorite, I'll be honest with you.  I read it first a few years back and reviewed it then.  My outlook hasn't changed much, though now I think it suffers in comparison to other Shakespeare that I've read recently.
I will say this though, much of my bad opinion could be from reading and not seeing the play.  I would like to see what a talented director and cast could do with this.  Could they make the Greeks less to suffer through?  Could they convince me that I should care about Cressida's happiness?  I'm not sure, but I'd like to see them try.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Odyssey - Homer

The Odyssey is one of the foundational works of Western Literature.  It's the fountainhead of every hero's journey and every road trip story.  It has a claim to be the inspiration for every story that is told in episodic form.  As a plus, it's completely readable.
I first read a version of the Odyssey when I was about ten years old.  The book told the story chronologically, starting with Odysseus hunting a boar when he was young.  It quickly told the story of going to Troy and winning the Trojan war.  The main focus was the journey home and the various difficulties faced there.  My dim memory has each adventure getting its own chapter.
This is very different than how the story is laid out by Homer.  The main focus in the actual work is the trouble that Odysseus's son, Telemachus,  and wife, Penelope, face while waiting for him.  The man has been gone for nearly twenty years and unscrupulous men are waiting to divide up his estate.  Will they kill Telemachus while doing so?
This is the main body of the story and it isn't close.  The entire Odyssey is divided up into 24 'books' or chapters.  The voyages of Odysseus takes up about four of them.  The tale of the land of the lotus eaters, a recognizable metaphor throughout the western world, takes about three paragraphs.  I couldn't help but think of what a modern editor would have thought if this manuscript appeared on their doorstep.  "Some good stuff, Homer baby, but maybe emphasize the action a bit more!"  Not that I was bothered by the way it was laid out.

The voyages do have some great stories.
  • The lotus eaters, which I mentioned above, serve as a great metaphor for the damage of loss of ambition.
  • The bag of wind shows the wickedness of greed and mistrust.
  • The sirens warn us of the powers of temptation and how planning ahead can save us.
  • The Cyclops story is maybe my favorite.  Odysseus and his men are trapped in an awful situation but Odysseus thinks his way out and tricks the Cyclops into think that No Man did it.
  • The journey to Hades is also pretty good.  It's legitimately spooky and I'm sure it's campfire aspect was played up in ancient times.
A great story and a well deserved monument.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Links to the Past

Othello on trial link

What a Liberal Education in the 21st Century should mean link

Webchat on translating the Iliad link

Rebel Without a Constant Conjunction (Existential Comics) link

Monday, March 7, 2016


Reading the Odyssey went very fast.  I'm ready to dig into something else.  (I'll write up at least one post on the Odyssey this week.)  Next up is a return to Thucydides.  The plan calls for books seven and eight of the Peloponnesian War, but I think this does a real disservice to the reader.  Back in year Three, we did books one, two and five.  This 'piece' is scheduled for year Nine.  The reader is expected to carry forward the memory of a very complicated war through six years.  If I'd stuck with the plan, I would have read more than 100 pieces in between.
But it gets worse.  Book seven picks up with Athenians fighting in Sicily without any clue as to how/why they are there.  The first sentence is literally 'After refitting their ships, Gylippus and Pythen coasted along from Tarentum to Epizephyrian Locri.'  The reader has no idea who is doing what or where.  It does get better as it goes along, but it's still a bad beginning place.  To fix this, I'm going to add in book six, which presents a more natural starting place.  (If you're scoring at home, please update your scorecards accordingly.)

I mentioned that the Peloponnesian war is complicated and it really is.  Fortunately, I've found an absolutely wonderful resource.  It's called 'The Landmark Thucydides' and it is a phenomenal text.  First of all, it is absolutely filled with maps that mark the cities and regions involved.  It's rare to go more than three pages without a map to help locate what is going on. 
It's also cross indexed so if the narrative jumps around, and it does, the reader can connect the various times and places.  In addition, at the top of each page it helpfully tells you what year and season is being written about.  For instance, book six starts in 416 BC the sixteenth year of the war.  Book seven starts with 414 BC, the eighteenth year.  In the back, there are appendices to help the reader understand certain aspects of the time, like how armies fought or how currencies were used. 
All in all, it's a great book.  I got mine used, so if you don't want to buy new, keep an eye out at the used book store.  There is also a Landmark Herodotus.  I haven't seen it, but if it's even half as useful as the Thucydides work, I'd buy it sight unseen.

In any case, Greek month continues!

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Shakespeare

'Midsummer Night's Dream' starts off with talk of the wedding of Theseus, the Duke of Athens and his bride Hippolyta.  As they are talking, one of their subjects come forward with his daughter, who is refusing to marry the man of his choice.  The Duke tells her that she must either marry, go to a convent or be put to death.  (Athens had rough laws.)  She remains defiant so the Duke gives her three days to come around.  She decides to flee to the country with her true love, but not before telling her girlfriend.  The girlfriend loves the man she is supposed to marry and she straight away blabs to him.  (The girls are named Helena and Hermia and are virtually interchangeable.  The men are named Lysander and Demetrius and are likewise identical.)  They all go to the woods.
Out in the woods, we meet Oberon, king of the fairies and his queen, Titania.  They are fighting with each other and have been for some time.  Oberon takes aside Puck, who is a first class trouble maker.  He has Puck get a flower that has some magic qualities.  When put into someone's eyes, they will love the next thing they see, man or beast.  Oberon wants to use this to make Titania fall in love with something awful.  As an aside, he asks Puck to put some in the eyes of a man in Athenian garb so that the lovers may be straightened out.  Puck gets the flower and puts the juice in the wrong lover's eyes. 
As all of this is happening, a group of 'rude mechanicals' start to rehearse a play that they will perform for the Duke's wedding.  The lead is played by Bottom, a blowhard of an actor.  As they rehearse, Puck puts a donkey's head on Bottom and scares the rest of the players off.  Titania, now bewitched, sees Bottom and falls in love with him.
Everything gets straightened out after much confusion.  The Duke comes across the lovers and bids them marry each other.  All is forgiven.  The mechanicals put on their play which is described as brief and tedious while also being a comical tragedy.  All of those terms are true.

I've been in this play.  Nearly 25 years ago, I played the part of Puck and absolutely loved it.  It was my first contact with performing Shakespeare.  It taught me how much harder you have to work with Shakespearian language.  How to communicate to an audience, both with words and in broader actions.  I'm convinced that this is the reason that so many of the greatest actors are 'trained' with Shakespeare.

If I was to play in it today, the choicest part would be that of Bottom.  (Though the actor who plays Wall would also be a choice small part.)  The rude players are simply wonderful.  Even reading the play, I could picture just how funny their scenes should be.  They have a great mix of seriousness and utter ridiculousness.  Delicious!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Shakespeare

This comedy was entirely new to me.  The two gentlemen of the title, are friends named Proteus and Valentine.  Proteus begins the play lovesick over a girl named Julia, while his friend Valentine chides him for his foolishness.  Valentine is sent away to spend time at court.  After this happens, Julia finds out that Proteus loves her and falls for him in return.  Before they can express their love openly for each other, Valentine accidentally talks himself into being sent away to court as well.
While at court, Valentine falls in love with Sylvia, and she with him.  But, alas!, is set to be married to a fop named Thurio.  While Valentine is talking about his love with Proteus, he somehow talks his friend into falling for her himself.  Valentine also schemes to steal away with Sylvia, but Proteus, in a bid to take Valentine out of the picture, gets him caught.  Valentine is exiled and falls in with some outlaws.
In the meantime, Julia has disguised herself as a man named Sebastian and has caught up with the court.  Proteus tries to woo Sylvia out from under Valentine (and Thurio) but she will have none of him for his obvious betrayal of his friend.  Proteus actually employs Julia to take letters to his new love.
Sylvia flees to the countryside and everyone is captured by the outlaws.  They are taken in front of Valentine.  Valentine curses Proteus for betraying him, but then Proteus makes a small speech and everything is forgiven.  In fact, Valentine gives up his affections for Sylvia so that Proteus can have her.  At this, Julia faints and then reveals who she truly is.  Proteus decides that he actually does love her instead of Sylvia.  The two couples are blessed and set off to marry.

There is a lot of fun in this play, but there are two absolutely jaw-dropping moments.  The first is when Proteus betrays his friend for a woman that he just decided he was in love with.  The second is when Valentine quickly forgives this outrage and then gives his love away.  I have no idea how either of those moments played with an Elizabethan audience but each one shocked me.
Each of those flawed moments could be rewritten without too much difficulty.  Even allowing more time for a change of heart in both would help.  The essay that accompanies the play in my Riverside Shakespeare says that I'm not alone in my distress.  Commentators have stumbled over those spots for centuries.  If I was putting the play on today, those would be the two things that I would most need to fix.

There are two fools in this play, each one a servant to one of the gentlemen.  The fool named Speed is quick witted and has outstanding word play throughout.  The other is named Launce, and he is a wonderful oaf.  He is accompanied everywhere by his beloved dog Crab.  Crab is much loved but he puts upon Launce something awful.  I've read Crab described as 'the most wonderful non-speaking role in all of Shakespeare'.  Speed and Launce are both wonderful parts, each in their own way.  My guess is that they often steal the show.

This is one of Shakespeare's early efforts.  In fact, they have quite a bit of trouble dating these plays exactly.  This may be Shakespeare's earliest play.  It's a little rough.  It's certainly not as immersive as the later comedies.  Still, there are some good things in there.  Fix the two big problems and I like it.

(Personal note: One unexpected benefit of reading/watching so much Shakespeare in a short period of time, is that I'm much more comfortable with the language involved.  So much so, that I'm not always looking for a stage version while I read.  I didn't here and I may not with the rest of the comedies.  Maybe not the tragedies or romances either.  I'm...less certain of the history plays, however. 
In any case, this feels like some small accomplishment.)