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William Shakespeare

average rating is 3 out of 5

Classics, Plays

R. Alex Jenkins

I struggle with Shakespeare because my attitude to reading his plays is essentially wrong, evidenced in my negative opinions, and no matter how I feel, research or try to understand, I still can't rate Shakespeare as highly as some. It's maybe my fault for coming so late to the party?

After all, Macbeth is the motherlode of deep, haunting and weird composition. I suppose it's the grandfather of gothic literature too?

This was my second attempt at conquering or attempting to enjoy Shakespeare's work and I mistakenly tried to read Macbeth like a standard novel, unable to accept that it's not meant to be consumed that way. I wanted to get through it and say I had read it, which is understandable but kind of sad. What can you do when you're not enjoying yourself? Abandon? DNF? Admit defeat?

By looking for pure entertainment you're going to achieve inevitable failure. That's the irony of Shakespeare, like surviving Chinese water torture before you can get anywhere. Punishment for the uninitiated. I swore 'never again' after forcing my way through the weird sisters, encroaching forests and the inevitable honorable death in battle. They always die!

Macbeth is difficult, but that's where it gets even stranger to understand. I am now on my nth Shakespeare experience and reading 'comedies', feeling more appreciative than ever and much better equipped to sift out the trash and favourites/duds from the pile, by beginning to enjoy, compile quotes, translate, and hoard away some really useful information.

To truly appreciate Macbeth you need to read it until the story becomes second nature, I suppose, so that the prose comes to the fore instead of the rather dull plotline. Some modern critics avoid Shakespeare entirely, but he's not worth getting irritated or annoyed about. It's meant to mess with your head and you're not supposed to understand at a glance.

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