Sunday, June 03, 2007

Reader's Diary #271- William Shakespeare: As You Like It (FINISHED)

I'll admit that with everything going on in my life right now Shakespeare had his hands full trying to make me laugh. I won't be all vague; my grandmother had a heart attack last week and it's been quite an ordeal. I don't usually post personal things, I've been trying lately in fact to use the blog as a distraction, but to no avail. I might as well accept that I'm upset and move forward from there. On a positive side, she's finally shown signs of improving. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much yet though.

Needless to say, Shakespeare failed miserably to cheer me up. In fact, until about halfway through I was questioning if it was even supposed to be a comedy. But then there was cross dressing and that's always good for a few cheap laughs right? Not this time.

You know how critics are all over Spiderman 3 and Shrek 3 for being too busy, having too much going on? The same could be said for As You Like It. It ends with four freakin' weddings! Four weddings and not a funeral anywhere in sight. I'm used to Shakespeare's plays ending in orgies of death, not just plain old orgies.

It starts off like it'll be a tragedy primarily about brothers. A duke has been banished to the forest by a usurping brother, another brother is envious of his older brother's inheritance, and one could only expect this to be another Shakespearean edition of Dysfunctional Family Feud. Alas, Shakespeare throws it all away for a love story, or four. I was expecting Ben Affleck to show up at any second.

The characters are also so unbelievably fickle. First Orlando and Oliver make up after some ridiculous run in with a lioness. Then with absolutely no build up whatsoever, it ends with a Moonie wedding interrupted by Jacques de Boys who tells the Duke that his brother has been converted by a religious man and wants to return all his property. Everyone cheers and ties the knot. A bow on a tidy little package.


Allison said...

I'm glad to hear that your grandmother is showing signs of improving, John. Its hard not to get your hopes up, but any improvement is a good sign. You and your family are in my thoughts and I hope that she continues to make progress.

As for the Shakespeare, I'm starting to think I have no recollection of As You Like It...I thought I enjoyed it, but your comments here have me thinking I have it confused with something entirely different. I must double check this.

John Mutford said...

Thanks Allison. So far, so good.

Allison, I've been so out of it this past week, perhaps I'm the one that read something different.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

My thoughts are with your family, John, and I hope your grandma's condition continues to improves.

Do you know, I was pretty certain that I had seen As You Like it performed, but like Al, can recall nothing about it. Obviously it must have been one of Shakespeare's throw-away plays.

John Mutford said...

Barbara, Thank you. She's nearing 87 and I know these things are inevitable. Unfortunately, logic isn't a cure-all.

Yeah, some have suggested that the title alone says what Shakespeare thought of it. Too much of a good thing.

Dr J said...

I always thought Shakie was at his worst with the comedies-- and AYLI is one of the better ones-- but largely because the conventions are so broadly played out as to seem facile. (Weddings, weddings everywhere, and not a stop to think!) Then I remind myself that, at the time, a writer-dramatist stood or fell on his capacity to juggle and to compound those conventions, even if today it seems like seeing how many people you can fit into a phone-booth. But when you see the plays performed, they still work-- amazingly well, really. The play, or the play-ing, is the thing. That's why, when I used to teach Shakie, I would begin the comedy unit with some bits from the UK Whose Line Is It Anyway: if nothing else, the show demonstrated in the clearest possible ways almost all of the techniques and conventions with which comedians still play. Reading the text, though one tends to forget. Unless one's an actor, of course.

But for me, the best part of AYLI is Jaques. He brings melancholic poignancy to the play, especially as he returns to romantic exile at the end. He's the gin in a glass too filled with juice.

And a kind of clarification: of Shakie's comedies, the ones most esteemed are (usually) Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night (don't ask me why), and As You Like It. It's a sliding scale from there, though teenagers and sentimentalists seem to have some peculiar connection to Midsummer Night's Dream, though I think it's a terrible play. Similarly, Measure for Measure, which, with its moral, ethical and sexual seediness, tends to appeal to modern audiences quite a lot. As they say, Go figure. *shrug*

Sorry-- long comment. Cheers.

John Mutford said...

I must say, I did enjoy Jacque's gloomy persona, the Eeyore of the lot. To be honest, I also enjoyed Touchstone, but it's probably cliche to say so.

I'm sure seeing them performed (performed well anyway) would no doubt be a better experience all around than reading it, afterall that was the intent. But since I don't yet have that luxury, reading it will have to do.

Don't apologize for the lengthy comments! I appreciate your insight.