Audiobook: Tyrant

Shakespeare on Politics
by Stephen Grenblatt
Read by Edorado Ballerini
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Content:  There’s some in-depth Shakespeare analysis, which might make it uninteresting to some. It’s in the Shakespeare/Theater section of the bookstore, but it could go in Current Events/Politics as well.

The basic premise of this book is simple: Greenblatt, a noted Shakespearean scholar, takes a brief — by no means scholarly — look at some of the  tyrants in Shakespearean plays. He primarily looks at Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, and Coriolanus: dissecting their motives, their pasts, and their rise to tyrant-dom. It’s, on the surface, an interesting look at these four plays (there’s a bit about Julius Caesar, as well), a fascinating and well-written exploration of these characters.

But — and maybe this is my politics showing — there’s a lot of similarities between the current administration and the tyrants in these plays. It serves as a reminder that these things are never new: there have been tyrants and tyrannical behavior for a long time. And those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it. In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that this was a work of Shakespearean analysis. Greenblatt never comes out and says “Trump is like this” but the undercurrent is there (if you choose to see it). It’s a smart analysis of the plays, and I learned a lot about them (I’ve never seen King Lear, and that is something I should fix; and I’d like to see the Richard III with Ian McKellen again), and the book is definitely worth it for that.

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Hag-Seed

by Margaret Atwood
First sentence: “The house lights dim.”
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Content: There’s some swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the adult fiction section, but it has crossover appeal for those who are theater/Shakespeare fans.

Felix is the best, most innovative, most desired director around, and he’s on the cusp of Something Great with his interpretation of The Tempest. But, just as he was getting started with that, an unforseen bit of treachery outs Felix from his role. He’s sent off to the wilderness, where he finds, eventually, a job as a theater teacher in a correctional facility. He finds enjoyment teaching the felons (it’s a minimum security prison) the ins and outs of Shakespeare. And then, he learns that those who betrayed him are coming to visit, and he realizes that his Time Has Come; revenge is nigh.

Yes, if this sounds like the plot of The Tempest, you are correct. Very much so. And, I think, the better you know the play, the better this book is. As one who has seen it (once), and knows the general plot, but not all the intricacies of the play, I… enjoyed it. I liked the Fletcher Correctional Players best; I liked how they interpreted Shakespeare, rewriting the play to fit them. My favorite part of the book, perhaps, is the end, when the players come up with plausible futures for their characters. So, it was accessible and enjoyable to someone with a passing knowledge of the play. I do wonder, though, if you’ve never been exposed to The Tempest at all, if you’d be able to get into and enjoy this. (Just wondering…)

Thoroughly enjoyable, especially if you’re interested in a different approach to Shakespeare.