Throwback Thursday ~ Much Ado About Nothing

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Pick any bookish or literary-related media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago.
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Cover via Goodreads

Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story if a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness. Villainy, schemes, and deceit threatens to darken the brilliant humor and sparkling wordplay–but the counterplot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners (via Goodreads)

That above is a somewhat edited version of the Goodreads summary because otherwise the entire story is given away. This is my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies. As many times as I’ve read it or seen it, it always amuses me with its language and its meta plot. Throughout most of the play, Shakespeare seems to be poking fun at himself. It has laughs. It has tears. It has a heroine named Hero.

The first version I saw was Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film adaptation:

And I’m pretty stoked for the Joss Wheadon version:

Cover via GoodreadsI’d also like to mention Shakespeare in the Cinema: Ocular Proof by Stephen M. Buhler as an additional Throwback and a shout out to one of my favorite college professors.

His classes, even the one on Milton, were always a mix of popular culture, music, and general lit-geekery. I was very lucky in my education to have rarely encountered forbidding literature teachers. Most were willing riff on whatever themes students saw in classic works instead of forcing one interpretation on us. Dr. Buhler is one of them best of them.

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Aside:

Shakespeare’s The Tempest

The Women of Fantasy Bookclub is reading Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter in March so I decided to read The Tempest in preparation (not that I’m sure it was necessary). I remember why I don’t like most of Shakespeare’s comedies. All the characters are putzes and nobody dies. My exception is Much Ado About Nothing and most loose adaptations of the comedies. While I haven’t seen it in a few years, it’s hard to believe that Forbidden Planet is based on The Tempest. I also have an especial sweet spot for 10 Things I Hate About You and the truest words that have ever been spoken about male-female relationships: Girls are suckers for guys that sacrifice themselves on the altar of dignity.

Books #2 & #3

Book #2 – It Made Sense at the Time by Ursula Vernon

I decided that with my birthday/Christmas Amazon gift certificates I would purchase some things by people whose work I usually enjoy for free. I’ve been following Ursula Vernon’s work via LiveJournal for almost as long as I’ve had a LiveJournal. Therefore, many of these stories are fairly known to me. But not all of them. And it’s fun looking at a snapshot of an artist at a certain point in her career. This book was produced before Vernon’s children’s books were published and before her divorce. In all, it’s a neat look at a very quirky artist. You can sample more of Ursula Vernon’s work at Red Wombat Studio.

Book #3 – The Cure at Troy, a version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes by Seamus Heaney

This is the companion to The Burial at Thebes. Okay, not really. The Cure at Troy was written in 1990 and The Burial at Thebes in 2004, but they are Heaney’s only plays and in some ways they do cover the same ground.

The Cure at Troy is about personal morality versus “good of country.” How much should you sacrifice one for the other? Is it possible to balance the two successfully? These are questions that Heaney revisits in his version of Antigone nearly a decade and a half later.

Writing-wise, the voices didn’t seem as rich as they were in The Burial at Thebes. I’m going to guess that this is somewhat due to Heaney advancing as a writer, but also because Philoctetes is a lesser known work. In the introduction to The Burial at Thebes, Heaney describes the need to set a new version of Antigone apart, and that probably led to more interesting character voices.

The Burial at Thebes

The Burial at Thebes, a version of Sophocles’ Antigone by Seamus Heaney

I adore Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, so the lit-geek in me squeed when I saw that he’d done translations of two of Sophocles’ plays.

I read Antigone in college. That was over ten years ago, but I don’t recall being unhappy with the translation I read. Not like Beowulf. With Beowulf, I was required to read an utterly dry prose version. I might be wrong about this, but I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to turn poetry into prose when translating a work. When I came across Heaney’s Beowulf, it was like a breath of frosty Viking sea air. Since I lacked the utter disappointment of hearing a bad cover of Antigone first, Heaney’s version had to stand strong on its own.

It certainly does. Each character is given a cadence to their speech which gives more indication of mood than any stage direction could. Heaney does not shrink from emphasizing the parallels between this story and modern arguments of patriotism. Love of country shouldn’t be defined by disdain for others, Creon’s mistake. And I’m reminded of the interesting relationship the Greek authors had with their female characters. Antigone continually states that she’s doing her duty as a woman and will stand up for it. Creon belittles her for being just a woman, while everyone around him seems to state, “Doesn’t matter what she is. She’s right.”

I have The Cure at Troy to read as well. This new infusion of Seamus Heaney makes it less likely that I’m going to re-read Beowulf in the next month.