Archive for Characters

Much Ado About Nothing

Posted in Much Ado About Nothing with tags , , , on May 6, 2009 by Saera

I love this play!

It was the second play I ever read by Shakespeare, and I distinctly remember being surprised at its extremely sharp wit, expressly referred to as “skirmishes of wit” in the play. From the first dialogue between Beatrice and Benedick, I knew that I was in for some fun.

Now, I have not read the play in over two years, almost three. (But it is on my summer reading list.)

This was a play of “firsts” for me: the first time I encountered one of Shakespeare’s many strong women characters, the first time I experienced the biting sarcasm that I have grown to love, the first time I remember reading something I recognized as a famous Shakespeare quote.

About a year later, I watched the movie starring Emma Thompson and Denzel Washington. Although it was entertaining, I did not at all care to the portrayal of Benedick. I had pictured him as much different, but I cannot explain exactly how.

Anyway, I enjoyed my reading of the play better than the film version.

But I often wonder what exactly I think of when I think of characters. I always picture them in my mind when I am reading a book (or play), but it is an indefinite picture, blurry as in a dream. But for all that fogginess, I am always able to distinguish a film version’s portrayal of a character as being definitely wrong according to my definition of that character. I do not exactly know why this is, but it is one reason I prefer reading to viewing.

Some characters are admittedly more difficult to picture than others, but generally, it is not a problem for me to get caught up in the world of the characters, and so see them as living individuals.

Maybe that is what I so much enjoy about Much Ado About Nothing – its incredibly clear, incredibly alive characters. Their speech so completely distinguishes them, that one cannot help but feel that he or she has actually heard them deliever their speeches in person. Although Benedick’s actual physical appearance may be somewhat foggy, I can distinctly picture his attitude and mind with the words he speaks. For example, here is the first exchange between the two B’s in the play:

BEATRICE: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick. Nobody marks you.

BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?

BEATRICE: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.

BENEDICK: Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.

Yes, these are clear characters, which one feels rather than sees. I can hear them speaking as I read, tell by the words they say how they say those words. This is not always the case with Shakespeare, so I will enjoy it when I can!

Charming Characters

Posted in A Midsummer Night's Dream with tags , , on February 24, 2009 by Saera

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the first Shakespeare play that I ever read. And because of the play’s charming characters (pun intended), it was not the last!  Fairies, enchantments, the complicated plot, and Puck’s sarcastic, rabble-rousing nature completely disarmed me. I thought Shakespeare dramas were supposed to be  nobly tragic and righteously boring, especially concerning the “Old English” language that I assumed he wrote in.

“What fools these mortals be!”      

Just when I had resigned myself to the unlucky fate of reading Shakespeare, the insufferable, I was quickly shown that Mr. William Shakespeare was not at all what he had at first appeared to be. I quickly realized that this play was going to be fun.

As the plot thickened, I delighted in the comic mistakes, the hilarious confusion, and the prominent Puck. Who else is there like Puck?

You cannot help but love him, even though he scares and annoys you at times. Second in power only to Oberon, he is loyal to something only if it proves potentially catastrophic. Maybe that is why I so enjoy him; he always adds to the general craziness of life. He possesses a certain benevolence although his specialty is wrecking havoc on the earth (the small sphere of which he is able to girdle ’round in 40 minutes). He actually restores order to the world of the woods by completely ruining that order. And his wit! Of all the characters in MND, he commands the most respect and perhaps the most goodwill, precisely because he doesn’t need it.

Then, of course there are the bumbling “rude mechanicals,” also some of the chief sources of humor in the play. Their mispronunciation, complete loss of touch with reality, and lack of self-awareness make them highly entertaining, to say the least!

The first time I read MND, I was able to laugh at their unbelievable inability to act. But it wasn’t until the third time that I read the play (and had developed a better familiarity with the story they were trying to renact) that I really understood the complete mess they made out of their misquotes and their mutilation of the story of Thisbe and Pyramus.

Then, of course, there is Titania: strong, beautiful, and brilliantly stubborn. She made the play seem like an elaborate fairy tale. Enchanted woods, fairy servants, elves, hobgoblins, all seem to be held together by her somehow.  For some reason, she vividly stuck out in my mind as I read the play for the first time. Although it seems like Oberon and Puck control her, I suspect that it is really she who controls them by going along with their fun and games. Come on! She’s the Fairy Queen – can she really not be familiar with the “love potion” or ways to combat its spell?

Finally, there are the human lovers – poor, unfortunate souls! They are quite amusing also, but only once the fairies have intervened in affairs a bit. I think my favorite human aristocrat would have to be Helena. She is the only one to remain fairly constant in love. Lysander makes a good show of constancy, but what can stand in the way of fairy spells? After all, Demetrius too claims constant love, but is shown to have little constancy when the magic reaches him.  Hermia too remains constant, and she is lovable, but she has never been as sympathetic to me as Helena is.

There are so many more things I could say about the characters – I would love to go more in-depth and look at their motives, actions, or qualities, but I am alas, like Helena wishing that sleep would “Steal me a while from mine own company.”

Rather like the play did.  It stole me from mine own company long enough to recognize the brilliance of another’s and to desire to return once more to Will’s world, where there are always wordy enchantments and where a dream seems more like reality than reality does!