I barely read anything in July, which was rife with exams, preparation for said exams, and final projects. In fact, the only things I did read were for a final paper for one of my courses, in which I was supposed to answer an old Staatsexamen question on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Basically, these questions always require you to write a research-paper-like analysis of a given scene, the structure of which is predetermined by three tasks given in the question. In this case, the third task was to analyze the role jealousy played in the scene and to compare that with at least three other works of Shakespeare’s. Immediately, I knew that Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be a perfect fit, but I needed at least one other option, so I googled “Shakespeare jealousy”, read up a little bit, and decided reading The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline might be helpful. Plus, I thought actually reading The Comedy of Errors might also be a good idea. In the real exam, you don’t necessarily get a familiar text, even if you have read the entire required reading list, but since I needed to get going with Shakespeare and this gave me the motivation to do so, as well as an excuse to finally read something, I figured – why not?
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (3/5 Stars)
The Comedy of Errors is true to its name: There’s lots of confusion based on cases of mistaken identity. This stems from there being two pairs of twins with identical names in this drama: Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus, as well as their respective servants Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus. Both sets of twins were separated after a shipwreck 25 years before the start of the play, and now Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse are visiting Ephesus, where, unknown to them, the other Antipholus is a prosperous citizen. Of course, characters immediately start mistaking the two Antipholuses and Dromios for one another, which leads to tons of chaos. I would love to see this in a theater some time – even though there’s not a lot of depth to the play, it is pretty funny, and probably even funnier when you actually see it on stage.
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare (3.5/5 Stars)
The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s so-called problem plays – a play that doesn’t neatly fit into one of the three categories tragedy, history, or comedy. The play opens in Sicilia, where King Leontes’ childhood friend King Polixenes of Bohemia is currently visiting. However, Leontes becomes convinced that Polixenes is having an affair with his wife Hermione. His suspicions make him descend into madness and eager for revenge on his former friend and wife. This obviously leads to a ton of trouble, which isn’t resolved until over 16 years later. Overall, I enjoyed this and liked that the characters were more morally complex than in The Comedy of Errors, but it also isn’t one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.
Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (3.5/5 Stars)
Cymbeline was probably my favorite out of the three plays I read this month. The story was more complex than that of the other two, and there was lots of intrigue and deception, which I always enjoy reading about. In this play, Imogen, daughter of the British King Cymbeline, goes against her father’s wishes when she marries a lowborn gentleman named Posthumus instead of the King’s stepson Cloten. Cloten’s mother, Cymbeline’s villainous new Queen, vows revenge. Imogen and Posthumus are separated, and the events that ensue force Imogen to flee, disguised as a boy. Again, this wasn’t one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, but I definitely enjoyed it!