All right, cards on the table time. Here is the list of the Shakespeare plays I was familiar with before I started plowing through my kindle: Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, Henry V. This is basically my high school reading list. There are also one or two plays I’ve seen that I don’t remember the names of. I once saw Shakespeare on the UC Santa Cruz campus among the redwoods. It’s a fantastic experience that I recommend highly. But, uh, don’t drink as much California red wine as I did. You tend to forget which play you saw. I think it was As You Like It but I may be wrong.
Anyway, you can see some pretty big gaps there. Most of the comedies and histories are new to me. And that means I have, to this point, never encountered one of the more important characters in English literature — Falstaff.
I’m told that the Merry Wives Falstaff is not as good as the one of Henry IV. I’ll let you know when I get there. If so, I’m really looking forward to those plays, because Falstaff in Merry Wives is quite fun, even if he is something of a secondary character to the wives themselves.
Wives is another play that probably plays better than it reads. The wordplay off the accents of Evans and Caius, in particular, is a bit difficult on the page. Envisioning it in my heads makes it more amusing. And there’s a momentum in the last acts that stalls a bit when you’re having to take breaks to play castle with your daughter. I’m also sure that the climax, in which the spurned suitors accidentally marry boys, was even funnier when women’s parts were played by boys. Overall, however, I found this comfortably within the gaussian of Shakespeare quality.
Next up: Measure for Measure.