Saturday, August 29, 2009

Shakespeare things...

-- I have just discovered that the Norton Shakespeare relegates the "Groping for trouts in a peculiar river" bit to an appendix. Harrumph, I say. HARRUMPH. Much as Titus Andronicus is not the same without Lavinia carrying a severed hand between her teeth, Measure for Measure is much the poorer for the loss of that exchange.

-- I'm not sure how I feel about this Late Shakespeare course yet. I'm really a comedies-and-histories girl, I think, and the prospect of one Big Monumental Tragedy after another is beginning to feel wearying already. Measure will at least be a change of pace, but we don't hit anything really life-affirming and communal and joyous until the second half of The Winter's Tale, which is still two months away. I miss happy endings; and in particular, I miss smart, witty, resourceful young women who get to choose their own husbands and live happily ever after, instead of drowning or being hanged in prison or murdered by their husbands.

It occurs to me that most of the things I do love about the tragedies are the parts that come closest to comedy: Othello pleading his case before the senators, Desdemona and Emilia's friendship, the gravediggers making quietly subversive jokes before Hamlet arrives to steal the scene. (Well, I also love pretty much all of Antony and Cleopatra, but Egypt is kind of a comedic space anyway, being a country of feasting and drinking and witty banter and practical jokes involving fish and cross-dressing and powerful women, and the part that I find heartbreaking is the way all those things get crushed beneath the solemnity of Rome.)

-- Finally got around to registering for SAA today. I ended up dithering about it for an absurd amount of time, because three of the seminars looked like a pretty good fit for what I do and I couldn't figure out in which order I wanted to mark my preferences, and I was having trouble finding a fourth choice at all. I have no idea why I always end up taking forever to make decisions about these things.

6 comments:

R said...

the Norton Shakespeare relegates the "Groping for trouts in a peculiar river" bit to an appendix

I just checked this out, because I couldn't believe it--clearly I have only read the play in my New Cambridge edition. That is...so not cool. Especially since the Norton gets ordered so often for intro classes, where there might not be time (or inclination) to go over textual variants and such. In the classes I've taught for so far, my students have found the Riverside difficult to work with, but I'm beginning to wonder if it's a less--problematic choice in some ways.

Anyway. I totally know how you feel about late Shakespeare. I love it, obviously, but there is something subtly wearying about a semester that is so heavily weighted with tragedies...

Fretful Porpentine said...

I have a very love / hate relationship with the Norton. I like the fact that you can order single volumes of the early and late plays, since that's how my university divvies up the two semesters, and they're both reasonable-sized paperbacks and not huge honking cinderblocks like the Riverside. I also think the introductory material and notes are quite good. But damn, do they ever make some bizarre editorial choices.

Honestly, I wish I could just order a bunch of the little Folger paperbacks, but our bookstore routinely screws up the simplest of requests, so ordering eight different books for a single course is just ASKING for trouble.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I had the first day of my Shakespeare class the other day. I have been using the Riverside for the last three years and students always complain about its size and weight. But I told them in my intro, "I know it's big, bulky, and heavy, but I will be nine months pregnant by the time this class is over. So if I have to carry it, so do you."

Because I AM pregnant, I almost ordered the Arden single copies of all the plays I'll be teaching (seven of them). But I think that the cost would have been greater in the end for the students if they had to buy seven individual books (no used ones would be around) than if they could buy used Riversides. So I opted for the brick-book.

For the record, I'm a histories/tragedies girl. I just don't like teaching the comedies. I love seeing them on stage, but I have a hard time teaching them. I'm going to try out Measure for Measure this time and see how that goes. I did like teaching All's Well two years ago, so I'm trying that again. Last year, I did Merchant of Venice and Much Ado about Nothing for my comedies. The former fared well, the latter sucked -- as far as teaching goes. The students liked both.

Fretful Porpentine said...

The Ardens are super-expensive, though, aren't they? It's been my experience that the Pelican and Folger editions are just fine for everything I want to do in the classroom, and at $5-6 a pop, they work out to quite a bit less than even a secondhand copy of the Riverside. (But then, I'm skeptical about whether the Huge Masses O' Footnotes in the Arden would be any help at all for most undergrads; maybe a mixed grad / undergrad class is different.)

R said...

I like the idea of teaching out of the Folgers, especially in intro courses, where the scene summaries and the essays could be a real help for students who need that, without sending them off to SparkNotes or whatever. Plus it's *much* less intimidating to write in an inexpensive paperback than it is to write in a fairly magisterial-looking Riverside or even the Norton. (I *never* took notes in my Riverside, in college--and I routinely wrote in my other books! Though maybe not everyone is as easily intimidated as I am.)

But it is an investment, I suppose, if Shakespeare pops up again in a student's career; and it's much easier to order one book than eight. Decisions, decisions...

tenthmedieval said...

Right with you on Antony & Cleo...