Cheap Shakespeare


I’m not a true Shakespeare guy. I like a lot of individual bits and pieces within his plays, and I love how bawdy he gets at times.

He can be really funny, and he sometimes says beautiful things. But I haven’t read all his stuff, and I have no interest in doing so. It’s an effort understanding what the hell he’s talking about, though it’s usually worth it.

But I do own a one-volume collection of his complete works, and I have turned to it more than I might have guessed. There are all sorts of modern adaptations of his stuff out there, and I always want to compare it to the original. And every once in a while, I’ll actually go see a production of something he wrote.

But that single volume is big and heavy. I’m never going to lie on a couch and read a whole play with that thing. Only when I’m ready to be scholarly do I pull it out, lay it on a flat surface, and look up specifically what I want. And that’s the wrong way to read Shakespeare. (Actually, I think that reading him is already wrong. It’s not really good unless it’s performed.)

Anyway. (link) is now selling a complete set of his plays and sonnets in 38 HARDBACK volumes, for ninety-five bucks and free shipping.

That’s $2.50 a book, which is less than the paperback versions. This is an amazing deal. And it’s not some crappy set that gives the text and nothing else. Practically everyone needs help with Shakespeare, and these Pelican versions give help. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it worthwhile.

I actually noticed the books on sale on Amazon when they were $150, and I agonized about getting the set. But at this point, I really can’t imagine them getting cheaper than this, so go snap it up.

4 Responses to Cheap Shakespeare

  1. Jeffrey December 11, 2006 at 1:49 am #

    Yep, it takes me a good 5-10 minutes at any production (film, play, whatever) before I start understanding what I’m hearing.

    There have been some fun teen-movie adaptations in the last several years, including “She’s the Man” (As You Like It) and “10 Things I Hate About You” (The Taming of the Shrew). We’ve watched both of those with the girls.

    Speaking of modern adaptations, I highly recommend “Bride and Prejudice,” a rollicking good take on “Pride and Prejudice” set in India and done in Bollywood style, which I now know means plenty of singing and dancing.

  2. weeklyrob December 11, 2006 at 5:38 pm #

    I was thinking of those same movies as I wrote the post. (Though, I think “She’s the Man” was from Twelfth Night.)

    I actually saw “Ten Things” with you and the girls. True to the original, but unfortunately for us, it had its moments of sexual comedy.

    As a father, I’m sure you’ve had your share of embarassing questions, but I particularly liked the answer that followed your nine year old asking “what did he draw on that guy’s face?”

    Answer (after an admirably short pause): “A penis.”

  3. JB December 12, 2006 at 9:02 am #

    I agree that Shakespeare should rarely be read, unless it’s out loud. It’s poetry, and I’m one of those people who think that poetry is meant to be said. However, I also rarely want to hear Shakespeare said, because I think all actors try to put their own spin on the lines rather than speaking them as they were meant to be inflected. This makes the performance unnatural and hammy and really really aggravating. When I hear such a performance, I can usually pick out where they’ve gone off on their own, and it pulls me out of the experience and makes me start hating people

  4. weeklyrob December 12, 2006 at 1:26 pm #

    I don’t think of most Shakespeare as being poetry. To me it’s just a play.

    Some parts are poetic (iambic pentameter, or what have you), but mostly it’s just words, like any other playwright.

    Which, to me, is why it needs to be performed. Because on paper it’s too majestic and unapproachable. But when acted, a lot of meaning becomes clear.

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