Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Romances - Shakespeare

There are only five plays that are commonly put into Shakespeare's 'romance' category. 

The Winter's Tale
The Tempest
Two Noble Kinsmen

Of the five, I liked the Tempest the most and The Winter's Tale the least.  Of the other three, I'd probably change the ranking from day to day.  As a group, I didn't like them as much as the comedies.  (Or the histories or tragedies, for that matter.)
From what I've read, in the latter stages of Shakespeare's career, his productions moved from a larger, more open theater to a smaller, more intimate one.  It's been suggested that this created a desire for more effect laden shows.  (I have no idea if that's true.)  If so, the plays suffer from being read and not watched.
It's also been noted that the later part of Shakespeare's career involved a different type of language construction and I can attest to that.  As each play started, it was hard for me to get into what was being talked about.  The speech is more convoluted and most be followed very closely.  I didn't care for it, though I understand that others may feel differently.

The feel of the romances is very different than the comedies.  The love stories are secondary.  There is death and injury everywhere, both threatened and realized.  The main men are largely unsympathetic.  I smiled and chuckled at times while reading the comedies, but not here.  They all end happily (to an extant), usually with family reunions, but they all feel like hard fought escapes rather than light fun.
Other connections?  Appeals to Roman gods.  With the exception of the Tempest, the Roman gods are all appealed to, or actually make an appearance.  They guide the players towards a conclusion, for good or ill.  I don't know why this is and I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't read them all in a tight timeframe.
Also, this is an era of simply outstanding names.  From 'Pericles' we get characters such as Thaisa and Leonine.  (Not to mention the title character.)  From 'Cymbeline', we get Imogen.  'Winter's Tale' gives us Hermione and Perdita.  'The Tempest' has such wonderful names as Prospero, Ariel and Caliban.  And finally, 'Two Noble Kinsmen' has Artesius and Emilia.  I'm sure that baby-naming books get a workout from these five plays.

These five weren't my favorites (though I'm glad I can now say that I've read them).  If these were representative of the full Shakespeare canon, he would not nearly be so well thought of today.

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