Shakespeare in a Year, and the real "Lady MacBeth"
I found this on Facebook and decided I would do it this year. Even though I'd be starting a bit late, the timing works out very well for me. Last spring I did a unit with Eler Beth to introduce her to Shakespeare, and this year, her freshman year of high school, I had decided we'd go a bit deeper and start reading some of the plays and more of the sonnets. So while she's getting her first real taste of the Bard, I'll be refreshing my memory. I haven't read any of the plays in a few years.
How old were you when you started reading Shakespeare? Which was your first play? Which was your favorite?
I read my first Shakespeare when I was twelve, and I was hooked. By the time we started reading him in high
school I'd read the major comedies, all but four of the tragedies, and at least two of the histories.
I never liked Romeo and Juliet on the whole --
I love Hamlet and MacBeth best of the tragedies -- my favorite comedies are The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night, although at any given time I might put Winter's Tale and Measure for Measure on that list. The first time I read A Midsummer Night's Dream I didn't care for it. I was really too young to appreciate it, I think. But now I love it, and might occasionally put it in that top five list.
My sister Lois gave me a beautiful and very heavy edition of The Complete Works as a graduation gift when I was 18! I still have it, and it's still one of the best gifts I've ever received.
I will probably get Romeo and Juliet out of the way and read it first with Eler Beth this year. I believe it's usually the first one introduced to high school students.
But for the "Read in a Year" I'm going to start with MacBeth. I was always annoyed with the character of MacBeth. I never felt sorry for him because he allowed himself to be controlled by his wife, very much the stronger character. But the real Lady MacBeth was an interesting creature from history. Did you know she was real? Her real name was Gruath or Gruadh, and she was
full Queen beside MacBeth, not his consort. Author Susan Frasier King wrote an historical novel about her in 2008 -- I have a signed copy!! -- after doing much research on the woman and her time. There is limited material available on her, so it really took some digging. I loved the book and would recommend it. (I have not yet read Margaret of Scotland by the same author, but need to remedy that situation soon.)
My favorite lines from "Lady MacBeth" are these, from the prologue:
"I wrote an answer with the very hand Malcolm wanted, though my Gaelic script is worse than my Latin. Only a few words were needed for a refusal. I sent the note and most of the gifts back, and kept the silk. My handmaid, Finella, likes it."I love that she gave the silk to her maid!
King does a really good job with this story. It is an epic tale told from Queen "Rue's" perspective. She is a warrior queen, powerful and smart. The MacBeth of history and his wife are nothing as they were portrayed by Shakespeare; no villain and villainess here, but a couple who are determined to stop the tyranny and unrest of King Malcolm's rule. King seamlessly sews together the facts we know of Lady MacBeth and her time with a beautiful, compelling, and even poetic way of telling a story. The result is a very powerful novel that I would highly recommend.
I will read Shakespeare's "MacBeth" this week, then I will re-read "Lady MacBeth" by King. Ah, yes, I look forward to this week!
Now, what will be the play for the next week??