Saturday, December 14, 2013

Whither Shakespeare? Part VI - To Get Hooked on Shakespeare, Where Should I Start?

After checking these blogs, a reader asked me “What play would you personally recommend to get someone hooked on Shakespeare?"

An argument broke out between my two houseguests.  One said Twelfth Night.  The other insisted The Tempest.

If you asked me how to get hooked on, say, Paul Auster novels, I would immediately say, "Start with The Brooklyn Follies or Oracle Night.  If you're intrigued, but not convinced, pick up Leviathan.  By then, if it's your thing, you're likely to be hooked and want to read them all.  Do not start with any book that begins with a man sitting alone in a room.

But Shakespeare?  How does one get hooked on Shakespeare?  It must depend on who you are.

If you’ve been ousted from your job and you’re seeking revenge, start with The Tempest.
If you’re contemplating retirement, start with The Tempest.
If you’re madly in love with someone who won’t see you or doesn’t know you exist or flees from you, start with Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, or All’s Well That Ends Well.
If you hate hypocrisy, start with Measure for Measure.
If you feel controlled by your family’s beliefs and old grudges, start with Romeo and Juliet.
If you’re irrationally jealous, start with Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, or A Winter’s Tale.
Start with A Winter’s Tale anyway.
If you are worried about succession and your children’s loyalty, or ageing, or madness, start with King Lear.
If you’re wondering why victims of prejudice can’t just get over it, start with The Merchant of Venice.
If you want to see victims of prejudice further humiliated, start with The Merchant of Venice.
If your mother remarried and you have problems with your step-father, start with Hamlet.
If you want your boss’s job, start with Macbeth.
If you feel emotionally or spiritually shipwrecked, start with The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, or The Tempest.
If your mother is overbearing, start with King John or Coriolanus.
If you’re not in direct line to inherit the family business, but would like to be, start with Richard III.
If you’re a gender bender and want to see a scene with what was in Shakespeare's day a man playing a woman disguised as a boy who agrees to pretend to be a girl to help another man practice wooing, start with As You Like It.
If you just like cross-dressing, start with As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, or Twelfth Night.
If you'd like to take a vow of chastity and immerse yourself in study, start with Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Most of all, one gets hooked on Shakespeare's language and wisdom.  Do yourself a favour.  Get hooked on Shakespeare.

What did I leave out?  What performance or teacher or experience got you hooked on Shakespeare?

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