Top Ten Tuesday: My Syllabus if I Taught ‘Shakespeare Modernizations’

toptentuesdayI’m very excited about this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) because it is a topic I’ve thought about a lot: what would be on my syllabus if I was a teacher. For years now I’ve told myself that if I ever taught a college class, it would be about Shakespeare adaptations because I love seeing those parallels between centuries-old plays and modern films (and now webseries!).

I’ve seen most of these modernizations, but I added a couple of new-to-me films because they really intrigued me. Ideally, if I was really teaching this class, we would read the play and then watch a modern adaptation of it.

Top Ten Adaptations on My Syllabus if I Taught ‘Shakespeare Modernizations’

The Lion KingThe Lion King (Hamlet) – The first Shakespeare adaptation I ever saw (also the first movie I ever saw in theaters)! The Lion King is a happy ending retelling of Hamlet, my favorite Shakespearean play, so I would definitely be including it. It would probably be the first assignment :)

10 Things I Hate About You10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) – A 90s classic. I adore this retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. When I first heard it was a Shakespeare adaptation I went and read the play on my own and began comparing the two. I really enjoyed how they kept Kat fiesty throughout the entire movie.

She's The ManShe’s the Man (Twelfth Night) – The red lettering on the movie poster describes this movie perfectly. I love that the original confusion and pandemonium of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is maintained in this modern film retelling. Plus I think Amanda Bynes is perfect for this role.

muchadofilmMuch Ado About Nothing – I’ve talked about how much I loved this adaptation before, so it would definitely be on my syllabus! One thing we would discuss is how it’s modernized even though the script is word-for-word Shakespeare (with the exception of one word). This is also my favorite Shakespearean comedy!

nmtdNothing Much To Do (Much Ado About Nothing) – In the past few years, “literary inspired webseries” have become very popular and pronounced. The first one I ever watched was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie is a communications grad student and Mr. Darcy is a young CEO of a media enterprise. Nothing Much To Do is a New Zealand based webseries that follows the lives of a group of high schoolers, namely Beatrice and Benedick who loathe each other. The first series was phenomenal, and for season 2 they are using the same characters to adapt Love’s Labour Lost, which I have not read yet but probably would before teaching this class :)

Romeo + JulietRomeo + Juliet – I would have to include Romeo and Juliet on the list, especially since there are so many different adaptations of it. The “forbidden love” theme alone has been repeated countless times. This 90s version of the play is one of my favorite adaptations, however, probably because it makes me as emotional as the play does. Plus it’s fun to study it as a film in itself.

MacbethShakespeaRe-told: Macbeth – Even though Macbeth is my least favorite Shakespearean work (that I’ve read), I would have to talk about it, because it is a great play (I just despise the main characters). About 10 years ago, the BBC released four Shakespeare adaptations in a series called ShakespeaRe-told. I’ve only seen the Macbeth adaptation and I remember it being gruesome (mostly because of “Macbeth’s” profession as a chef.

A Thousand AcresA Thousand Acres novel/film (King Lear) – The first of four adaptations on this mock-syllabus that I haven’t actually seen yet. King Lear was so incredibly sad to me that I’ve only read it once, but the story-line has always stuck with me so I would like to read/see A Thousand Acres one day. Side note: I realized while preparing this post that the relationships between King Lear and his daughters/his daughters with one another is mildly portrayed in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, with Anne Elliot representing Cordelia. That would also be fun to discuss!

The Black AdderThe Black Adder (MacbethRichard III, and Henry V) – I just discovered this TV series when I was researching for this post, but it has Rowan Atkinson and it received high reviews, so I think it would be an interesting addition to the syllabus.

OO (Othello) – Another film I haven’t yet seen! Othello is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies that has me face-palming over the characters’ blindness and stupidity instead of feeling sympathy for them. But it has plenty of good themes that I’m sure are relayed into this film as well. Plus, I love Julia Stiles :)

Alternative:

The Forbidden PlanetThe Forbidden Planet (The Tempest) – This movie just sounds so fun. A 1950s sci-fi version of The Tempest (another play I haven’t read yet). Maybe I would assign this as extra credit or something?

Do you know of any other Shakespeare adaptations I should add to this mock syllabus? Let me know! I love discussing The Bard and his endeavoring inspiration.

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Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books!

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Whew! I took an unexpected week off from blogging and I think it did me a lot of good. I’m going through some personal things at the moment, some of which I’m hoping to post about tomorrow on my late February wrap-up.

But for now, let me ease back into blogging with my favorite meme, Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)! This week’s topic is about our favorite books. For a long time now I’ve had a very stable Top 5, so for today I had to decide on my top 6-10, which was hard! I almost cheated…

Top Ten Favorite Books

AoGG Pride and Prejudice janeeyre Persuasion Harry Potter

attachments IMG_2049 tokillamockingbird littlewomen Hamlet

Anne of Green Gables is my all-time favorite book, but Anne of the Island should be on this list, too! I only left it out to make room for some others. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Persuasion are so close I could easily switch them around. Yes, my favorite Harry Potter book is the last! Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows made me feel all the feels, and I thought it was the perfect ending to a favorite series. The rest of the books on this list probably don’t belong in that order, but I haven’t given it much thought before now. Those would be my next favorites, though. Attachments is my favorite book from this decade, so far. Short Straw Bride is my favorite historical novel. What else can I say to justify To Kill a Mockingbird‘s place in my heart and on this list? Little Women is another book that makes me feel so deeply! And Hamlet has always been, and most likely always will be, my favorite Shakespearean play (and favorite play in general, for that matter), no matter how cliché it sounds :)

There you have it: my ten favorite books! Do you like any of my favorites? And what are your most beloved reads??

Shakespeare in the Spring: Macbeth

macbethMacbeth by William Shakespeare
First Performed in April 1611
Classic/Play
Format: e-book; 132 pages
Also From This Author: Romeo and JulietHamletMuch Ado About Nothing
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 3/5

If I could have, I would have avoided making my first “Shakespeare in the Spring” post about Macbeth, but I read it back in October (it’s perfect Halloween reading) and I never got around to writing my post about it.

So, why the avoidance?

I adore Shakespeare. I love quoting him, I love watching film adaptations of his plays, and I love talking about his works with bookworms and non-bookworms alike. However, there is one thing about Shakespeare that I don’t like: I do not like his Scottish Play, Macbeth.

Shakespeare’s tragedies are my favorites. In 8th grade we read both As You Like It and Hamlet. I did like As You Like It (we even took a field trip to see the play–my first!), but when we started Hamlet I fell in love. It had everything a “wanna-be gothic” pre-teenage girl could want to read (yes, embarrassingly enough, that is how I classify that epoque of my life). And since then, I have greatly admired Shakespeare’s tragedies. I love reading them and experiencing them all over again, except for Macbeth.

I’ve read Macbeth twice now and both times I’ve been unhappy about it. It’s not because of Shakespeare’s writing (his words and themes I actually did like), but I think it’s because of Macbeth and even more so, Lady Macbeth. Let me compare these two characters to another Shakespearean tragic hero: Hamlet. Despite the indecisive masochistic behavior of Hamlet, I still root for him. Even though his identity as a tragic hero means he’s doomed, I still want good things for him. I cannot say the same for Macbeth and his wife. I really wanted them to die the whole time. Well, maybe not Macbeth, but definitely his wife.

It’s wonderful that Shakespeare created such a strong and dominate female lead. I really did appreciate that she broke the model for a traditional female character. She was actually more of a male figure than Macbeth: she’s strong-willed, ambitious, and violent. However, I really viewed Lady Macbeth as more of a disease; after Macbeth hears from the weird sisters that he will be king, his wife immediately begins feeding him poisonous thoughts about power and it is she who provides Macbeth with the plot to kill King Duncan. Macbeth is barely able to summon enough “courage” (if you can call it courageous to kill your friend and king) to commit the murder, and it is Lady Macbeth who guiltlessly adds the finishing touches needed to successfully frame two of the king’s men.

This murder and great conflict occurs early on in the play in Act II, and in the remaining three acts we witness how the deepening guilt destroys Macbeth and his wife. For those who have read Macbeth, you know there are plenty of memorable themes going on. Obviously, don’t murder someone in order to take their place! The guilt will literally be the end of you. Hamlet taught that to us as well. I think my favorite theme from Macbeth, however, was that not everything is as it seems, or as Macbeth so eloquently puts it, “fair is foul, foul is fair.” What seems like a fortuitous future may actually bring us nothing but regret and guilt, our friends could end up being our enemies, and even those characters who would appear angelic and hospitable (such as Lady Macbeth) could actually be the most ruthless of them all.

I know that Macbeth  is one of Shakespeare’s most admired plays, and I understand why, but I have a question for those of you who love it: what do you find most enjoyable about it? Like I said, I’ve read it twice already and I don’t anticipate ever reading it again, but if anyone wants to take on the challenge of changing my mind about it, please try!

Shakespeare in the Spring

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April is National Poetry month (at least in the U.S.) and I think it’s the perfect month for it. Spring has arrived; the flowers are blooming and the birds are perched in trees cheerfully chirping. This season is just asking to be spent reading romantic poetry in a park, isn’t it?

Another reason April is the perfect month to be called Poetry Month is because it is the presumed month in which William Shakespeare was born (April 23rd also marks the anniversary of his death). Shakespeare was the author of my absolute favorite play, Hamlet, and I believe I also have him to thank for sparking my interest in poetry to begin with (Byron helped as well). Therefore, to celebrate Poetry Month as well as the life of the world’s most influential writer, I have decided to spend the next four weeks reading and blogging about the three Shakespearean plays I have on my Classics Club List. I like to combine reading challenges and events so I can cross books off of my TBR list :)

So check back later this week for my thoughts on Macbeth, but for now, tell me: What is your favorite Shakespearean work (be it play or sonnet)?

Happy Sunday!

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Literary Worlds I’d Never Want To Live In

toptentuesdayThe actual topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the lovely ladies of The Broke and the Bookish Blog) is “Top Ten Things on My Bookish Bucketlist”, but I opted to choose a past topic instead: “Top Ten Worlds I’d Never Want To Live In”. This was actually a rather difficult post for me to write, because all of these worlds listed here are dark, gorey, and hopeless. But to cheer myself up I added a little surprise at the end ;)

Top Ten Literary Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

panem

Panem (from The Hunger Games trilogy): 

For anyone who has read the books or seen the movies, this is a pretty obvious choice. In the futuristic dystopian world of Panem, children ages 11-18 are entered into a lottery each year, a lottery that chooses 12 boys and 12 girls who will be forced to fight to the death in a harsh arena. Only one child survives.
Besides the annual “Hunger Games”, there are also strict rules that the citizens have to live by day-to-day. Each district has its own “Peacekeepers” to terrorize and taunt the citizens into submission. When I first read these novels I was constantly on the edge; there was no “down time”. I was always feeling anxious and scared for everyone (so much so that I had a nightmare wherein Peeta and Katniss were being physically threatened by a pack of 20 Careers. This is how I knew I needed to read something happier…like Jane Austen. Now there’s a literary world I’d love to inhabit!). I love that the author, Suzanne Collins, was able to make me feel this way, but I love even more that I do not have to feel this way in real life! No Panem for me!

lordofthefliesThe Deserted Island (from The Lord of the Flies):

What a fascinating book, but what a messed up world. If this pig on a stick image doesn’t bother you, maybe you should imagine it talking to you while flies swarm disgustingly around its dead head. Yeah, this novel gave me the creeps in many ways, but the pig head could arguably be the least disturbing part for me. The group of savage boys was much scarier, especially after they started killing off the younger ones.
Technically, this deserted island isn’t some fantasy world, but a means by which to draw out the savagery that inhabits all of us. Scary thought, isn’t it?

oneflewoverthecuckoosnestThe Mental Hospital (from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Unlike most of the other novels listed in this post, I did not enjoy reading (or watching) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It doesn’t help that it features Jack Nicholson (great actor, but there’s a reason he usually plays creepy roles), but I read the book first and I didn’t enjoy it either. I usually stay away from novels and movies involving mental heath issues as they don’t tend to sit well with me.
The scariest character in this “world” is the tyrannical Nurse Ratched (I mean, with that name you can’t be expecting someone like Princess Buttercup). Instead of trying to cure her patients’ illness, she uses them to maintain her power. She even tries to convince the non-insane protagonist that he is insane. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s obvious that it’s not a happy one (or else this novel wouldn’t be on my list).

wonderlandWonderland (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

This magical world is most likely someplace that a lot of bookworms would love to visit. Not me. I recently read this novel for the first time, and I was greatly disappointed. I’ve always enjoyed the films, even though they are very bizarre, but the book drove me insane. Obviously Wonderland is a confusing place, but I was literally getting headaches from trying to follow along with Alice’s adventures. I don’t even want to imagine what that place would be like if it actually existed.

mostdangerousgameThe Jungle (from The Most Dangerous Game)

I guess this is technically a gothic short story? I’m not sure, but I did like reading it, despite the fact that the story follows a man who is unknowingly invited to another man’s private island so that he can be hunted. Not the happiest of tales, but–spoilers–it ends well. Still not the type of place I’d ever want to live in.

1984Airstrip One (from Nineteen Eighty-Four)

This is one of the first dystopian novels I ever read (I believe the very first one was The Giver), and this genre has definitely become one of my favorites despite the fact that I would never want to live in any of the dystopian worlds, like the setting of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Here free-thinking, individualism, and a sense of personality are forbidden as we are dominated by Big Brother. Obviously there are real places in this world that mirror this fictitious place, but I’ll let the conspiracy theorists argue about the extent to which it exists.

macbethAny place featured in Shakespeare’s tragedies (mainly the supernatural world of Macbeth)

Hamlet is not only my favorite Shakespearean work, it is also my favorite play, but between the ghosts and the insanity, it’s hard to find anything positive about the Prince of Denmark’s world. And Macbeth’s world is even worse. If it’s not the witches that tempt him with visions of power and success, it’s his wife, Lady Macbeth, who is essentially responsible for most of the deaths in the play.
And then there’s Romeo & Juliet, also known as the saddest story ever. I love Shakespearean tragedies (except Macbeth…I’d be fine never reading it again), but I’d never want to live in one, even as a minor character who is fortunate enough to stay alive.

waroftheworldsEarth under alien attack (from The War of the Worlds)

I’ve actually never read this novel (it is on my TBD list for this year, though!), but I’ve seen the Tom Cruise movie and that was enough to know I’d never want to experience a bloodthirsty alien attack. I highly doubt I’d survive something like that, and even if I did it still wouldn’t be enjoyable.

pillarsoftheearthKingsbridge (from The Pillars of the Earth)

I haven’t read this novel, but I did watch the miniseries and it was enough to convince me that I would not enjoy the book. Medieval England was not a happy place for anyone, not even for those in power, and certainly not for women. Despite the fact that I don’t enjoy this type of literature and that I’m extremely grateful that I don’t live in a medieval society, I actually do like one thing related to The Pillars of the Earth: it board game based on the sequel, World Without End. It is probably my favorite strategy game, ironically because you actually feel like you’re playing for your life. I know, I’m such a contradiction.

westerosWesteros (from A Song of Ice and Fire series)

Normally these lists aren’t actually in order, but in this case I can say that, without hesitation, I would rather live anywhere than Westeros. I tried reading this series after the Game of Thrones series became hugely popular, but I seriously regret every buying the books. So many graphic images and unforgettable horrors, especially involving women. I can’t fathom why anyone, if they could visit any fictitious world, would pick Westeros. And with that being said…

To cheer myself up, because it wasn’t pleasant coming up with this list, I am ending this post by sharing the one literary world I’d love to visit above all others:

avonleaAvonlea, Prince Edward Island (from the Anne of Green Gables series)

*sigh* Sometimes, I think I’d like to live in Edwardian eastern Canada permanently, and pretend to be imaginative Anne Shirley and take long walks down dirt roads and have picnics outside with my best friends every single weekend. The only competition with Anne Shirley’s world would be a Jane Austen world, but Anne, as a woman, has so many more opportunities at living an independent life and I think it would be too hard to have to rely on marriage in order to survive. Wow, I didn’t think this post would become so feminist before I wrote it ;)

So what are some fictional worlds you would never want to live in? Or, if you’re like me and would rather think about happy thoughts, if you could live in one book world, which one would it be?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Assigned Reads

toptentuesdayThe actual topic for today is “Top Ten Covers I Wish I Could Redesign” but I wanted to answer this one instead:

Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read

Here is a quick list of the books I was assigned to read (from 6th grade through college) that have stuck with me ever since. A lot of these I still consider some of my favorite reads. These are listed in chronological order (not as in date published but as in the date I first read them).

forcedreading1

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – This is the novel that first got me into dystopic young adult reading. It is a page turner for all ages, and I even heard that they are planning to make a movie soon.
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder – This may have been the first play I ever read. My 7th grade Language Arts class read it together and although I have not reread it since, the themes and motifs surrounding life and death still hang on to me.
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Ahh, my first ever Shakespeare read. This is still by far my favorite Shakespearean play, and it too is responsible for my deep love of all things Shakespeare. I have reread this play plenty of times (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen it performed!!). Once during a 4 hour drive from Tallahassee, FL to Walt Disney World, Matt (who was not yet my husband) and I read Hamlet aloud to pass the time. He fell in love with it too ;)

forcedreading2

  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – My 9th grade English teacher assigned us so many good reads (including this book and the following one). I wish I appreciated having that class then as much as I do now. Lord of the Flies is a classic. I haven’t met many people who have not read it, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand – Whether you like French literature or not (I guess it isn’t for everyone), you will enjoy this comedic play. I loved it when I read it in 9th grade, and I still loved it when I watched the Gérard Depardieu film version a few years back.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Another novel I believe pretty much everyone has read. In one of my American Lit classes in college, we were asked to give the name of one novel that best describes America. Most of the class picked The Great Gatsby. Any one disagree?

forcedreading3

  • 1984 by George Orwell – Another dystopian classic I still love to this day. In my mind I paired it with this following novel…
  • Anthem by Ayn Rand – To me, this novel is very similar to 1984. Although I read it after reading 1984, it is actually roughly a decade older. If you are into dystopian novels, I recommend both this one and 1984 (as well as The Giver, which I listed earlier).
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville – Never in my life would I have read this novel if it was not assigned to me in an American Lit course I took in college. For starters, it’s massively long. And I feel that nearly half of the chapters are solely about the whaling industry. But nevertheless, this is a masterpiece that I feel absolutely deserves its title as an American Canon. I believe many of us can identify with Captain Ahab…
  • Passing by Nella Larsen – For anyone interested in African-American Lit, this was a beautiful novel. I don’t think I was able to put it down. Heartbreaking and eye-opening, to say the least. (If you are unaware of what the term “passing” means, it was used to describe mixed-raced people whose skin was light enough for them to pass as white.)

Jane Eyre Chapters I-XI

As previously mentioned, I am participating in a Jane Eyre read-along this month, so for those of you who have not read at least the first 11 chapters of the novel, be prepared for some spoilers.

This is my first time reading Jane Eyre, and before I started I had absolutely no idea what it was about, and had only heard mixed reviews on whether I should like it or not. Typically I do enjoy Gothic literature, especially Gothic short stories (A Rose for EmilyThe Cask of Amontillado, and The Lottery are just a few of my favorites), but I had always assumed that Charlotte Brontë’s novel would be similar to her sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, which I have continued to like less and less since I read it almost 9 years ago, mainly because of how awful the characters are to one another.

And so when I finally started reading Jane Eyre last night, I was rather discouraged before I even reached the third chapter, and this can all be contributed to the horrid Reed family, who have probably succeeded in winning the “Quickest Character(s) to Earn My Undying Hatred” Award (move over, Dolores Umbridge).

But in all seriousness, John Reed MUST have been George R. R. Martin’s inspiration for Joffrey Baratheon. Consider this lovely (and somewhat lengthy) passage, which serves as our introduction to Jane’s malicious cousin:

     “What do you want?” I asked, with awkward diffidence.
“Say, ‘What do you want, Master Reed?'” was the answer. “I want you to come here;” and seating himself in an arm-chair, he intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
[…]
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
“That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,” said he, “and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!”
Accustomed to John Reed’s abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it; my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.
“What were you doing behind the curtain?” he asked.
“I was reading.”
“Show the book.”
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen’s children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense. Now, I’ll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they ARE mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.”
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
“Wicked and cruel boy!” I said. “You are like a murderer–you are like a slave-driver–you are like the Roman emperors!”
[…]
“What! what!” he cried. “Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won’t I tell mama?[…]”

This.

Fortunately, after reading through Chapter 11 I can safely say that the book has greatly improved, although some of the chapters did seem to drag on a bit. I did however love the goodbye scene between Jane and Helen Burns. It was so beautiful and emotion-filled. I love heart-wrenching stories like that. I know it’s pathetic, but those types of emotions always have a greater impact on me. I am sad to lose Helen as a character, though…she was so good and kind-hearted. I admired her forgiving spirit, and the fact that she never held a grudge ever. I know that if I had to pick between which of these girls I am most inclined to be like, it would without a doubt have to be Jane. I was pretty convicted in that regard. But through Helen and Jane’s relationship I was able to relate to our heroine and find a connection with her, which is an essential factor in me being able to like the novel. This is also why I classify myself as being a part of the minority of Austenites who love Fanny Price/Mansfield Park.

So I can truthfully say I am now eagerly looking forward to the rest of Miss Eyre’s story, as long as there are no more appearances from the Victorian Joffrey (and if there are, all of you who have already read Jane Eyre are encouraged to laugh pitifully at me).

But I really do love modern-classic crossovers, so here are two more little funny gems for you all:

Joffrey

“How to be a Turd” written by John Reed

Hamlet

Unrelated, but still amazing.