Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun. If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.
Title: Macbeth: The Folio Edition
Writer: William Shakespeare
My exposure to Shakespeare began in the second grade when the sixth graders put on a much-abridged performance of Macbeth for the school. Perhaps because it was my first, Macbeth has always been my favorite of The Bard's plays. Then again, there is so much to like about The Scottish Play. Murder, intrigue, insanity, power lust, dark magic - what's not for a boy to love?
We read the play in high school, of course. Surely, everyone in the English-speaking world does. The real treat of that experience, though, was a school trip to the Folger's Elizabethan Theatre in Washington to see the tragedy performed live. The production was mesmerizing. The scene with Banquo's ghost - accomplished literally with smoke and mirrors - will stay with me for life.
Shakespeare has become a big part of my life over the past several months. My teaching partner, Drama Guy, is an extremely gifted educator who has done a great deal to reinvigorate my own career over the past two years. He is also a Shakespeare nut. This spring, we co-directed Romeo and Juliet at the middle school where we both work.
In each of the past three years, Drama Guy has produced Shakespeare plays at the high school with tremendous success. This was his first time trying it with middle schoolers. While my drama chops are not up to DG's level, literary analysis is very much in my wheelhouse. I spent a lot of time with the students helping them understand their lines. The process had its ups and downs, of course, but I was quite sad to see it all come to an end. Usually, I'm relieved when a performance is over. I ran the light board for the show and actually got a bit teary as I brought the lights down on the Prince for the very last time.
Part of my wistfulness was over the students, of course. The cast were wonderful and quite a lot of the more talented ones will be moving on to high school next year. The ones who put the most work in definitely got a lot out of it. I also realized when it was over that I was going to miss Shakespeare. I've read a few Shakespearean plays and seen several more performed but
this was easily my most intimate interaction with his language. I don't think it's possible to work that closely with the material without being affected by it. The thought of taking on a similar project with a younger, less experienced cast next year is daunting but we're cautiously optimistic. We're both keen to try them on Macbeth!
My Wife has had this comic book version of Macbeth since high school. Von's interpretation, which includes the full text, is long out of print - a shame because it's very nicely done. Reading Shakespeare in graphic novel form feels a bit closer to a stage performance than mere text on the page. Missing are the annotations one would find in a Folger edition or similar but the illustrations help provide context. From a comic reading perspective, panel- and text bubble order are occasionally confusing. I am eager for more Shakespeare in general and will certainly seek out more graphic novels. John McDonald has a series that looks promising.
Any other Shakespeare enthusiasts out there? If so, you must check out Shakespeare Uncovered, an outstanding PBS series from this past winter. If you're looking for a good film version of Macbeth, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood is excellent.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post July's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is July 26th.