After a lengthy hiatus, Favorite Authors A-to-Z is back with the letter ‘S’!
I debated for a long (long) time about this column, and I finally have to break down and write about Shakespeare. Other authors to check out that I recommend are Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, George Bernard Shaw…some heavy hitters. Not to mention all the fantastic children’s and young adult authors: Maurice Sendak, Richard Scarry, Louis Sachar, Shel Silverstein, Lemony Snicket and of course, Dr. Seuss.
I had to admit to myself: Shakespeare is king. There’s no getting away from Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s works are so pervasive that we quote them without even realizing it. “Pound of flesh”? That’s from Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice). “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”? From Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “Screw your courage to the sticking place”? Macbeth. And of course there’s “star-crossed lovers” from Romeo and Juliet, or “Discretion is the better part of valour”, from Henry IV, Part One.
It’s pretty fascinating to read all the sayings Shakespeare’s works have contributed to the Engish language. I may just be a giant book geek, but for one person’s words to spread so far and wide and last so long is pretty impressive, no?
I’d tell everyone to go read all of Shakespeare, but I know that won’t likely happen. Instead of the standards like Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, check out these options:
The Taming of the Shrew: Remember the movie with Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles called “Ten Things I Hate About You”? It is basically a teen movie retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. It’s funny and romantic and a great option that you don’t get forced upon you in high school, so you shouldn’t have any baggage associated with reading it.
Much Ado About Nothing: Another comedy of Shakespeare’s, and if you like witty repartee, Benedick and Beatrice are for you. If you like it, try the Kenneth Branaugh/Emma Thompson film version, but read it first!!
King Lear: If you’d prefer drama and tragedy, go for this story of a king and his three daughters, and the importance of not falling prey to flattery instead of reality.
Henry IV, Part One: If you prefer history over comedy or tragedy, this story of Henry the Fourth of England and the trials and tribulations over both his reign and his son. It sets the stage for his son’s growth and evolution into Henry V, and it also has Falstaff. (You gotta love Falstaff).
Shakespeare is probably spinning in his grave after that last parenthetical.
There is so much Shakespeare out there and you really can’t go wrong. Pick a work and read it!
But at the last, a warning from Jane Austen, via Miss Elizabeth Bennet:
“I have been used to consider poetry as the _food_ of love,”
“Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Every thing nourishes
what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort
of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve
it entirely away.”
…so use Shakespeare’s sonnets wisely. Happy Reading!!