Sunday, July 3, 2016

An Anglophile in Exile

England is definitely the place for an anglophile to read Henry V. I love knowing that I had no idea ten years ago I would go to England in June of year 10 of my Reading Plan just in time to read that most patriotic of Shakespeare’s plays, and yet that’s where I put the play when I drew up my schedule back in 2006. Henry V disappointed me the first time I read it. The Archbishop convinces Henry to attack France. Henry makes a stirring speech and then attacks France. Henry wins the battle and gets to marry the French princess. Pretty straightforward. I saw much more in it, though, when I read it a second time several years ago; I loved especially the scene in which the king goes in disguise through the camp the night before the battle to hear what the soldiers say. It seemed simpler again this time, and yet it also picked up a new layer of effect as I read what is also the most imperialistic of the plays during the Brexit referendum.

I read four Shakespeare dramas while in England and Ireland this past month. I got to see Macbeth (I’m not superstitious: I feel perfectly fine typing and even saying the name) from the yard in the Globe Theatre. The thrill I experienced made up for the disturbing fact that I couldn’t follow as much of the dialogue as I usually can. My problem may have had something to do with my standing behind a dismembered mannequin that hid a speaker blaring wind sounds and other spooky noises, as well as two incidents of other standing patrons fainting within ten feet of my position. But I read the play the next day just to reassure myself.

I also read Timon of Athens, finishing my project of reading all Will’s plays for at least a second time. This tedious tale of a self-made misanthrope joins some other creations of the Bard that I don’t care to read a third time. In devising my third ten-year reading plan, I discovered that Shakespeare’s works for the stage don’t just arrange themselves on a scale for me: they neatly divide themselves into plays I like reading and ones I do not. So I’ll skip the latter list and enjoy each of these at least twice over the next ten years:
  • Richard II
  • 1 Henry IV
  • 2 Henry IV
  • Henry V
  • 2 Henry VI
  • Richard III
  • Julius Caesar
  • Macbeth
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • Othello
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • All's Well that Ends Well
  • Twelfth Night
  • Comedy of Errors
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • As You Like It
  • Measure for Measure
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Cymbeline
  • The Tempest
  • Pericles
As You Like It sits well above my threshold. The exploits of Orlando and Rosalind in Arden Forest went with me on the plane leaving the islands. Like them, I felt like an exile.

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