Good morrow! I’ve borrowed the title of today’s post from the 1948 Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, which is based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Brush Up Your Shakespeare was a real show stopper! Brush Up Your Shakespeare! is also the title of a book we have at CLP — it’s a little gem of a book, discussing many of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets with wit, and helping readers appreciate Elizabethan language and manners.
So, to our current challenge: How do we 21st century readers dive into The Winter’s Tale? Although I’ve seen plenty of Shakespeare’s plays performed on stage (including one particularly memorable interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew, performed outdoors in Montana featuring Petrucchio as a swaggering cowboy and Katherine as a lusty saloon girl!) — it’s been many years since I’ve read one of his plays, and I suspect some of us are in this same situation.
First of all, I suggest reading a synopsis of the play. Learn the names and relationships of the characters, something about the setting, and of course, what happens. What the story is about is important, certainly, but it’s Shakespeare’s language that brings the story to life. At the same time, it’s the language that often trips us up. Secondly, read the play aloud, either by yourself or with a partner. You’ll be surprised how musical the language becomes when you hear the words spoken, and how an initially confusing passage comes to life when read aloud. Finally, don’t rush. Sip a cup of tea or a pint of ale. Or two. Take your time and enjoy the journey. I’m anxious to hear how this Shakespeare experience is for all of you. Keep me posted.
By the way, while The Winter’s Tale has not given us as many quotable speeches as other Shakespearean works, it does boast one of the most memorable stage directions in history. (Hint: Act III.) Anyone?
Until next time, Jane
NEXT POST: The Love, Forgiveness, and Wisdom essay on The Winter’s Tale from Dr. Betty Sue Flowers.