The Death of Caesar by Barry Strauss

The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination by Barry Strauss (Simon & Schuster, March 2015) examines the traditions of the assassination of Julius Caesar, clearing up the myths (such as Shakespeare’s play) from reality. Analyzing such an historic event from 44 B.C. is not easy since eyewitness accounts are few and far between and records of supposed eyewitnesses are always questioned. Yet, Strauss’s book provides an entertaining and thorough examination of the most pressing people and events leading up to the assassination, the deed itself, and the immediate result.Continue Reading

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (Brief Thoughts)

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare felt a lot like Love’s Labour’s Lost when I read it because there was misdirected love. But The Comedy of Errors takes humor to another level by adding in mistaken identity because of a double set of identical twins!

In The Comedy of Errors, there are two sets of identical twins who were born on the same day, two born to a rich merchant and two born to a poor woman. The rich  merchant bought the two poor babies to be slaves to his sons, and when he returns to his home, his ship is wrecked and the twin pairs are separated. Now, more than two decades later, the two sets of twins happen to be in the same town. Since they are unaware that there are two different servants called Dromio and two different men named Antipholous, there are amusing results!

After I read the play, I watched Big Business, a movie with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin that follows a similar premise: two sets of identical twins separated at birth. Besides the initial premise, however, the modern-day retelling has very little in common with the Shakespeare play. Nevertheless, it was a funny movie to watch. 

Although The Comedy of Errors is ridiculous and highly unlikely, it is still a delightful play. It must be quite amusing watching in person as the Dromio and Antipholous characters appear on stage and confuse the residents of Ephesus. This wasn’t my favorite Shakespeare play, but I’m glad I read it. Shakespeare has a wonderful way with plot development!

Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare

I had hoped that by waiting a week or two I’d know what I want to say about Love’s Labour’s Lost, but after all this time I still have very little to say. I worry that I feel this way because I read a free Project Gutenberg version of it, and as I read in Shakespeare on Toast a few weeks ago, that is not necessarily a good thing: not every version is created the same.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is an amusing Shakespearean comedy: light, pure entertainment. I found few memorable lines in the version I read, but it was an enjoyable plot. I also watched Kenneth Branaugh’s version of the play, which was a completely original take on it. I loved that he was able to reinvent the play, using Shakespeare’s own words, in a modern scene without too much pain.

The play is about the king of Navarre and his court — four men who take a vow of celibacy for three years while they pursue their studies, forbidding women to even enter their court. When the princess of France hears of this development, she and her court decide to visit and see what kind of reception they can receive. Of course, the young men fall secretly in love with the lovely ladies, despite the King’s decree, and when they all discover the other’s pining love, they decide they should abandon their pledge and flirt with the women. Crossed love letters and a group of women determined to mock the royal court ultimately result in the four young men failing to accomplish their goal of wooing the women, but it makes for an amusing ride for the audience as we watch it unfolding!

Branaugh placed this mythical Basque kingdom and court in Europe in 1939, giving his lovebirds the tendency to burst into songs — Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin. It’s a musical, it’s light. Is there any substance to it? Not a whole lot, but Shakespeare’s original didn’t have much either. There is a lot of play on words, most of it groan worthy. Apparently, Branaugh’s movie had less than half the original words as Shakespeare.

Love’s Labour’s Lost is the least often performed of Shakespeare’s plays. Nevertheless, I’m glad I gave it a try. It’s nice to know that even Shakespeare doesn’t do everything perfectly. Although, I will say that even this mediocre and less than impressive play still has delightful wordplay. Shakespeare didn’t do too badly.


Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal (Brief Thoughts)

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal (Icon Books, September 2012) purports to be a book for young adults, providing a look at Shakespeare as “as easy to handle as beans on toast”. That must be a British thing because beans on toast sounds pretty gross to me. (I don’t like beans.) At any rate, Shakespeare on Toast is delightfully refreshing in it’s overview of Shakespeare’s time and writing styles. Although I am pretty well read on Shakespeare, reading it taught me a lot and got me excited once again to read the Bard’s words. Success!Continue Reading