Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Note: The Shakespeare Stories

Matthews, Andrew. The Shakespeare Stories. Illus. Tony Ross. Croydon: Orchard Books, 2015.

This delightful collection of sixteen Shakespeare plays retold for early readers has only recently come to my attention.

These are more than fabulous introductions to the plots of the plays. Each one has a brief essay at the end that opens up some of the questions raised by the play in question.

And they're illustrated by Tony Ross, who is deeply influenced by Quentin Blake (who illustrated many of the Roald Dahl books). I find the illustrations to fit the plots and their retellings perfectly.

Let me show you what I mean—and, just so you know, the books are available individually as well as in the box set pictured here, so if you just need the Hamlet, you can get it.

Speaking of Hamlet, here's The Shakespeare Stories' take on it:

Matthews, Andrew. Hamlet: A Shakespeare Story. Illus. Tony Ross. Croydon: Orchard Books, 2015.

I'm very fond of the Hamlet for its illustrations and its clarity of plot presentation, but it does reveal one critique I have of all the stories: it needs more Shakespeare! I know that they're designed for early readers, but Shakespeare has many passages that are clear and comprehensible, and working those in would provide a terrific foundation for kids reading the plays later. couldn't they work in "to be or not to be" in the section that provides Hamlet's POV during the big soliloquy?

But let me give you a substantial portion of this retelling of the play. Each retelling has a brief dramatis personae, so we'll start with that, and then we'll get Hamlet's most famous soliloquy and some interaction with Ophelia.





Matthews, Andrew. The Tempest: A Shakespeare Story. Illus. Tony Ross. Croydon: Orchard Books, 2015.

We can turn to The Tempest quickly—for two main reasons. First, I like the way Caliban is presented. He's a monster, but a sympathetic rather than a scary one. Second, the second spread below shows that the books do incorporate quotations from Shakespeare—but not as part of the retelling . . . just as interludes or epigraphs.



Matthews, Andrew. Twelfth Night: A Shakespeare Story. Illus. Tony Ross. Croydon: Orchard Books, 2015.

I wanted to provide a sample of the short essays as well, so here is the one for Twelfth Night, which I thought was just right for opening questions about the play—getting readers to start thinking about what they've just encountered in a retelling and preparing them for what they may encounter in a future, fuller version of the play.


All in all, these are highly recommended additions to family libraries, school libraries, and personal libraries. And they make fantastic gifts from Shakespearean aunts and uncles to potential Shakespearean nieces and nephews.

Click below to purchase the books from amazon.com
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Bonus Image: All the Titles Included in the Box Set

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Note: Queen Lear

Conley, Ellen Alexander. Queen Lear. N.p.: N.p. 2013.

It's another self-published Shakespeare novel!

This time, I'm not reading it all the way through. I read the opening, skimmed a bit, found it to be not too compelling and too full of easy profanities, and sent it back to the library.

But I'll also call your attention to it so you can either grab it (if it's your cup of tea) or avoid it (if it isn't).

Letty Lear is a real estate mogul who divides her empire between her three kids (and their kids). Then things become complicated, though the plot from there on doesn't closely follow Shakespeare's.

In any case, here are the first few pages—with some censored words.







Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, May 4, 2018

Book Note: Peril at End House

Christie, Agatha. Peril at End House. New York: Bantam, 1988.

I'm sure Dame Agatha Christie was asked—far more often than she liked—where she got the ideas for her novels.

I think I can answer where she got one of the ideas in Peril at End House, a novel from the early 1930s.

Actually, it's Hercule Poirot's idea, but I imagine Dame Agatha had something to do with it.

I'll tell you the plot point and then provide the text to support it.

In the novel, several attempts have been made on the life of Mademoiselle Nick Buckley. After the last, Hercule Poirot has put her in a private hospital with strict instructions that she should see no one but him and Hastings and that she should eat no outside food. Unwisely, she eats a chocolate that she thought was sent by Poirot himself and becomes very—but not dangerously—ill.

That's when Poirot has the idea. See if you can figure out where he may have gotten the idea. It starts about halfway down page 142 below (click on the images to enlarge them):





Where could he have thought of such a thing?

I'll just provide you with a quick speech from Friar Francis in Much Ado About Nothing:
                                            Pause awhile,
And let my counsel sway you in this case.
Your daughter here the princes left for dead:
Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
And publish it that she is dead indeed. (IV.i.200-04)
Poirot's motives are a little different—he wants to smoke out the attempted murderer—but the plot is the same!

I'll let you read the novel to determine whether the end is more like Much Ado's or Romeo and Juliet's.

Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Et tu, UNW?": Julius Caesar at the University of Northwestern

Julius Caesar. Dir. Dan McLaughlin. University of Northwestern Theatre. St. Paul. 26 April—5 March 2018.

We all remember the triumph of the delightfully Philostrate-heavy Midsummer Night's Dream (for which, q.v.). And we were delighted with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), especially its promotional material (for which, q.v.).

Now The University of Northwestern—St. Paul turns its battalion of magnificent thespians to tragedy in a production of Julius Caesar.

I haven't seen the show, but I've met with the director a few times, and I think the play will be redolent with interesting directorial decisions.

The show starts tonight. If you're anywhere in the Twin Cities area, grab your tickets and go!

Update: Here's an episode of the vlog for the show!


Links: Purchase Tickets Here.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Note: The People's Bard

Pellegrini, Nancy. The People's Bard: How China Made Shakespeare its Own. New York: Penguin, 2017.

I have time for just a quick few words on what turned out to be a very disappointing book—or pamphlet, really.

A book with the title The People's Bard: How China Made Shakespeare its Own should do what its title sets out to do. Instead, we are presented with a basic plot summary of Shakespeare in China. The introduction indicates that the book is for non-academics, but the book it largely rehashes, Alexander C. Y. Huang's Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange (for which, q.v.), is entirely accessible by the general reader even though it also has an immense weight of scholarship behind it.

The book also cycles through the same material multiple times. We think a subject has been covered, but it comes back again—but without additional depth or much in the way of alternate angles on the material.

Here are a couple sample pages. In the first, we glimpse a bit of Shakespeare under Mao:




That's interesting and good, but it's all covered by Huang in a much more satisfactory manner.

The second sample is better, providing some examples of modern productions of Shakespeare in China and pointing toward the reason for interest in Shakespeare in China—his complexity in characterization.



Again, that's good material, but Huang does it better, more thoroughly, with more analysis, and with the same level of readability.

Click below and to the left to purchase the book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).
Better yet, click below and to the right to purchase Huang's book from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

 
Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2020 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest