Take a moment to savor the summer delights and craft some new traditions while learning the legends of summer.
In Shakespeare for Beginners, I listed various books and resources I like to use to help in reading Shakespeare’s plays. However, one of the best accompaniments to reading his plays is watching one or more of the movies or stage productions.
When I studied Shakespeare in college, one of the requirements of the class was to watch each of the plays we were studying. Although I had seen a couple of live productions, I had never seen a Shakespeare film, but since it was required, I dutifully checked out my first Shakespeare video, Richard II. I was entranced. With facial expressions, props, costumes, and even the way the actors said their parts, I was drawn into the action of the play even more than when I had read it.
When you first approach reading Shakespeare, it can be a daunting experience. Even though I grew up reading books with similar language, I still found Shakespeare difficult unless I had a teacher holding my hand every step of the way. I could just about understand the basic plot line and even some of the language, but many of the jokes, the history, and the language went over my head.
Over the years, I have found several things helpful in reading Shakespeare’s plays. With these aids, I am able to enjoy Shakespeare so much more than before as well as understand the plays at a deeper level.
The subtitle of A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward says it all: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. The voyage of the Sea Venture, May to July, 1609, featured an encounter with a perfect storm that flung the little boat ashore on the island of Bermuda instead of its intended destination, the fledgling colony at Jamestown.
The author is a credible historian (the text is fleshed out with ample notes and an extensive bibliography) with a novelist's skill at telling a story enlived with fleshed out characters, dramatic tension, and pacing that make it a true page turner. One of the Sea Venture's passengers was William Strachey, a writer whose extensive chronicle of the castaways' experiences of the desert island was widely circulated on his successful return to England and clearly was familiar to Shakespeare who apparently wrote his play while the news was still fresh.
Who were these people? How did they survive? How did they hand build a boat capable of getting them up to Jamestown and what did they find when they arrived? What elements did Shakespeare incorporate into his play? Fascinating reading, with an amazing finish.