Wednesday, November 28, 2007

THE OXFORD SHAKESPEARE by William Shakespeare

The Book: William Shakespeare (general editors, Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor); THE OXFORD SHAKESPEARE: The Complete Works. Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett, and William Montgomery, editors. Oxford University Press reissue, 1998. Fine condition.
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 2000

Every library should start with three books: a Bible, a good dictionary, and the complete Shakespeare. This single volume replaced several battered paperbacks (although I've hung on to some of those for sentimental reasons, and might get to them later in the week). It's a huge book, and not convenient for pleasure reading; I use this book mainly for research, and bought it specifically to answer a question for a client. What's great about Shakespeare is that he's in the public domain, so this book was a relative bargain; I think I paid $25 for it.

I can't say anything about Shakespeare that other people haven't said better. The whole human condition is here: love, hate, rage, redemption, sorrow, joy, jealousy and every strain of family dysfunction. I like productions of Shakespeare that set the plays in non-Elizabethan times, because they remind us of the universality of his subject matter. Several years ago I saw a production of Romeo & Juliet directed by Joe Banno at the Folger Shakespeare Library that set the story in a present-day Catholic high school, and made perfect sense.

That said, I still haven't read all of this. I never took a Shakespeare course, and would need some guidance to get through Coriolanus or Timon of Athens. One of these days, in my copious spare time, I might try to do it myself with a set of Cliff's Notes. Or I might finally take a class.

Five Random Songs

"You Are My Sunshine," Norman Blake. From the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. This is Dizzy's favorite song; I sing it to him all the time. Every so often I get someone else to sing it to him, and he whips his head around with an astonished expression on his face: You know this song too?

"Pirate Jenny," Nina Simone. Possibly the angriest song ever written, sung by the angriest singer. It's not the greatest translation, but Nina Simone's delivery makes up for the clunky English.

"Christmas," The Who. From Tommy, who doesn't know what day it is. Funny, you never hear this one on the all-holiday music soft rock stations.

"Baby Why Not," Dwight Yoakam. A cheerful zydeco number about taking a chance on love. "If someone asks why, we'll say we forgot/And both lost our minds/Well baby, why not?"

"We Should Talk," The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Industrial ska-funk that sounds weirdly dated now; I close my eyes and it's 1995.


Anonymous said...

You never took a Shakespeare course? And you went to Georgetown, which had Shakespeare studs? You never studied a Shakespeare play with Gay Cima? I'm wondering whether you didn't squander a wee bit of your time on the hilltop....

I love Shakespeare--you know that I can die happy because I've managed to raise my two daughters to be comfortable with his work--and I do believe that it really really helps to read his work with a great teacher (though conversely, the biggest tragedy could be the many potential readers who are introduced to his work in class by teachers who manage to kill their interest in this work permanently.)

Also, don't you find the collected works are too big a book? I still have my treasured omnibus, yes, and pull it down to look stuff up. But i also have many cheap paperbacks, which are easier to read and carry and mark up. I think that these are usually better for reading the work.


AnswerGirl said...

You're right, Tom, I have no excuse -- though I was SFS and not College. But I did work tech on a couple of productions with Glavin and Cima and Ray Reno's Shakespeare theater group...

and yes, the collected works are too big to read comfortably. I said in the post that I use this book mainly for reference. I have a paperback of the collected poems, and still have a few paperbacks of plays I was involved with (Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, Romeo & Juliet).

AnswerGirl said...

PS And as for whether I squandered my time on the Hilltop, I think that's pretty much a given...

Laura said...

Dwight Yokam--what a delightful fellow hillbilly he is. And Baby Why Not is a lot of fun!

I used to sing "You Are My Sunshine" to the kids in my lullaby repertoire.
Ah, happy days!

Anonymous said...

My grandmother gave me a set of the Yale Shakespeare when I was graduated from High School. I am not sure if it was because She thought I should have copies of Shakespeare or if it was because my Bookcase looked empty and nothing fills it up like a 40 volume set of something


AnswerGirl said...

My grandparents had the Yale Shakespeare too, Richard! In fact, I may still have a few of those blue books on my shelf.

Anonymous said...

This past summer, the St. Louis Shakespeare Fest performed Much Ado About Nothing to an old west theme. It was great fun, once the brain accepted Marshall Dillon talking in Shakespeare speak. At frist, the eyes and ears were quite sure how to reconcile the difference.