British plays

2017 Reading List #2: Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde

The best thing about attending/working at a university where winter break is 5-6 weeks long is how much reading can get done in that time frame.

I’m doing my best to get off to a good start in 2017, and so far, I feel good about my progress.

I’m currently juggling three reading projects at once—sometimes I don’t know how to stop—but I try to balance various genres and goals when reading multiple things at once.

My mom and I are reading the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets together (which is how we first read them when I was much younger), and after finishing Swing Time yesterday, I started on another book that’s helping to cross off one of my 2017 goals: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (I’ve never read her before, so I decided it was time to start).

But, since A Room of One’s Own can be complex and less readable that a typical novel, I decided to throw a play into the mix, which is how Lady Windermere’s Fan happened late last night.Reading two plays by Oscar Wilde is also a goal in 2017, and I’ll soon be able to cross that one off.

Lady Windermere’s Fan shows off Wilde’s characteristic witticism and is entirely enjoyable. Like many of Wilde’s plays, this one has it’s fair share of farcical elements, but it’s also a bit sweeter and sadder than something like The Importance of Being Earnest. The play takes place over 24 hours in the life of Lady Windermere, a young woman led to believe that her husband is having an affair with the new harlot in town. In truth, the relationship between her husband and the woman is more complicated, and all kinds of fun ensues during the play’s progress.

I sped through this play much quicker than I’d expected, so I’m planning to continue my Wilde reading alongside Woolf. I’ve got a collection of Wilde’s plays with three more to read, so I think I may just power through the entire thing before setting it aside.

Look for more reflection on my various reading projects in the coming days.

Happy reading!

2016 Reading List #15: Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Only one reread left in my oral exam preparation! We’re only four weeks into the semester but it’s flying by. I’ve got a month and three days (!) until my thesis defense/oral exam and I’m teaching 3 days a week, which didn’t seem like very much on my plate, but that was wrong.

I’m surviving, but oh goodness, will I be happy when this whole deal is over. As I have to have a play by Shakespeare on my reading list, I chose the one I saw performed at the Globe Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing, which is my favorite of the Shakespearean comedies I’ve read.

As I tend to say when writing my book reviews of Shakespeare, I don’t know that I can add anything original about a text this old. It’s funny and ridiculous and totally enjoyable, so go read/watch it!

My last bits of oral exam prep should conclude this week before I’m just in full-on study mode: rereading The Glass Menagerie and familiarizing myself with the works of John Donne and Anne Bradstreet. My brain is not entirely pleased.

2016 Reading List #13: The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

Since I’m finishing my master’s degree this semester and have to defend my thesis and take an oral exam over everything I’ve learned in just over a month (!), I’m doing my best to reread as many of the texts on my reading list as possible. Thankfully, one of those rereads was The Importance of Being Earnest, which is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable reading experiences at your disposal.

There probably isn’t anything terribly new or unique I can say about this play, so I won’t try. It’s hilarious and ridiculous and perfectly entertaining. Go read it if you haven’t.

Before I allow myself to start any other leisure reading, I’m making myself get through the last two texts I plan to revisit for my studies: The Glass Menagerie and Much Ado About Nothing, and I’m also making my way through the poetry of the likes of John Donne, Emily Dickinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Oh, the life of an English student…

Book #68: The Cripple of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh

My first encounter with The Cripple of Inishmaan was in 2014, when I saw the play on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe. It doesn’t take much more than his name for me to become interested in something, so when my mom and I saw the production in May, we didn’t know much about what we were getting into.

Turns out, the play was more than a pleasant surprise–it was a delight, or at least a delight of the truly dark comedic kind.

The Cripple of Inishmaan takes place in 1934 on the Irish isle of Inishmaan and stars a quirky ensemble of characters in this small town. The lead character, Cripple Billy, is a seventeen-year-old orphan (aka the type of character Daniel Radcliffe knows well) being raised by two pseudo-aunts. Billy is the butt of most jokes on the island, especially from Helen, the girl he naturally has a crush on.

The biggest plot element in the play is that the characters have heard a Hollywood film is being made in neighboring Inishmore about a crippled boy, so Billy and a few others go to audition. We also learn early in the play that Billy has apparently been given a terminal diagnosis from his doctor, so to keep from upsetting his aunts, he hopes to travel to America to die.

The play is hilarious and terribly sad at the same time. If the British are famous for black comedy, this is a perfect example of what that means–snarky, rude, sweet, and depressing all at once. The Cripple of Inishmaan was the first of the books I received for Christmas that I’ve delved into, and it was a perfect (if not bleak) way to end 2015.

Book #66: As You Like It, by William Shakespeare

My first real reading project of grad school is complete! I’ve also been reading lots of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and other academic works, but As You Like It was my first real project for my Shakespeare class. This grad school thing is starting to feel real.

As far as Shakespeare’s plays go, I think As You Like It is a good place to start. The last time I read any Shakespeare was almost five years ago, when I read King Lear for my AP English class my senior year of high school. It’s definitely fair to say that I’ve needed a bit of a transition to get back into reading such dense works. 

As You Like It is, in my opinion, a fairly easy read in comparison with other Shakespeare works, so I’m happy to have read it now to ease myself back into the Shakespeare experience. It’s also a fun, light story with an easy-to-follow plot, and features the very recognizable “All the world’s a stage” speech. 

I have a feeling that, now two weeks into my semester, I’m reaching a point when I’ll be much busier with my school work. I thankfully have a week or two before my next Shakespeare work is due, but in the mean time, I’m reading Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and beginning Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. I think it’s safe to say that the remainder of 2014 will be full of rigorous reading for me.