Friday, 25 April 2014

Lit Nerd Recommends: The Bard

I have many nicknames for the Bard - Willy-Shakes being my most used - but it seems I'm not alone in renaming Mr Shakes. Reading The Bookman's Tale last week I came across a quote from Robert Greene (who hardly seemed an angel himself), who said that Shakey-baby was an 'upstart crow' and 'the only Shake-scene in the country'. Cool your feathers, Mr Greene!

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Shakespeare's works. I enjoy reading them, studying them and seeing them performed - either in their original state or in various adaptations. In honour of Shakespeare's 450th birthday this week I'm going to share with you fifteen of my favourite and most highly recommended Shakespeare related goodies. I've got a whole host of exciting things including plays, non-fiction, gifts, and other related works.

The Bard: A Mixed Top Fifteen

1. The Winter's Tale

With the famous 'Exit, pursued by a bear' stage direction, this is a tragicomedy perfect for spring. I would have to say it's my all time favourite Shakey play.

2. Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

Kind of an oldie in the world of Shakespeare now but it's a goodie. A short and sweet look at the man himself.

3. Titus Andronicus

Titus is violent, bloody and full of horrendously wonderful puns (usually about Lavinia's lack of hands). Lavinia is a feminist's dream to critically analyse. I saw it performed at The Globe when I was about 15/16 so I'm pretty stoked to see it's coming back this year.

4. The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber

This is a novel in verse based on the argument that Kit Marlowe was actually the author of Shakespeare's plays. It is phenomenal.

5. Play on a page posters

I have the Much Ado poster adorning my wall (a lovely gift from my sister). I also really fancy this poster. I've clearly moved on from boy band and cuddly animal posters...

6. Everybody Dies poster

This also came as a sheet of gift wrap which I bought instead of the poster because, well, it was so much cheaper. I'm still going to hang it. Though perhaps it isn't the cheeriest print I could put on my wall.

7. The Taming of the Shrew

A witty, funny, and slightly questionable play in feminist terms, but it is brilliant. It has spawned some equally brilliant adaptations - Ten Things I Hate About You being the best thing ever.

8. The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

This was a recent read all about forgery, Shakespeare and the usual Shakespeare authorship question. A fast-paced novel full of literary intrigue.

9. Shakespeare's Insults Pyjamas

Because, well, why not?!

10. Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer

Yonks ago I saw Germaine Greer do her stage version of this book and it was so good I rushed out of the auditorium and bought the book from the very handily situated vendor by the door. Love it.

11. Shakespeare Star Wars

Did you know there was a second? Neither did I until one turned up on my doorstep sent by my best friend. The perfect gift for a Shakespeare and Star Wars nerd.

12. The RSC Complete Works of Shakespeare

This book is so beautiful I'm speechless when I look at it. It's also pretty heavy but I can look past that.

13. Macbeth

No list would be complete without Mac-B. An atmospheric and chilling play to read and watch. I loved the BBC Shakespeare Retold version with James McAvoy.

14. Shakespeare's Restless World by Neil MacGregor

This is one of those 'in a 100 objects' books (it's not 100 objects here, but around 20). It is detailed and so very interested. The physical book is a beaut too.

15. Baz Luhrmann does Romeo and Juliet

One of my favourite film adaptations EVER. Someone give Leo an Oscar dammit! Shakespeare and guns is a tricky one to pull off but Luhrmann does and with some serious pizazz. 

So there we are, my top fifteen Shakespeare related goodies. I could quite easily have filled this list with Shakespeare's works but I think we can often enjoy the genius of Willy-Shakes through other means. Would you agree?

Do you have any recommendations to add? 



  1. I've seen Shakespeare's Wife at my local used bookstore several times, but never end up buying it -- it seemed kind of academic? I'm not sure if that was a misperception or not, but I wasn't sure if I was really up for the task. I've been wanting to read the Marlowe Papers for sure though, and of course I loved the Bookman's Tale :)

  2. I haven't read any of his plays but I have enjoyed many of the movie adaptations. I saw R&J quite some time ago with my then girlfriend in Harrogate and loved it. Much like the Dicaprio movie it was the classic text set in the modern era and was really well done. Yet despite a very prominent warning about sudden loud noises the whole theater still jumped out of their seat (including me) when one of the actors pulled out a gun and shot another actor during a fight sequence!

    I do have copies of some of his plays plus a complete works on my shelves somewhere. I've been meaning to actually red them for some time now.

    Oh, and the idea that he didn't write his own plays is farcical. The man was a dyed in the wool genius - end of.

  3. Your enthusiasm for Shakespeare (or Shakey-baby? :D) is infecting. I have only read a few plays, and since Shakespeare was something we had to read in high school, I was pretty much scarred for life because the whole class was "uggggh verses" and discussion sucked and I gave up on him. I know I should start reading him again now when older, but there just seems to be some kind of block.

  4. FAVOURITING THIS POST FOR ALL TIME. Have you seen Sanne at BooksandQuills starting her Shakespeare project? She's planning to get into dear old Willy Shakes *snorts into her tea* this year, and her enthusiasm for getting stuck right in is nearly as infectious as your recommendations! My next mini-project is reading the four Hollow Crown plays so I can finally watch the adaptations - I have all but Henry V, I think - then I want to reread some of my old favourites (Othello in particular) AND buy the plays that are being adapted in the NEXT series of THC so I don't have wait forever to watch them this time. I think Cumberbatch is one of the kings this time around?? YES PLEASE THANK YOU.

    P.S. My page minimised and stopped at a weird place and all I could see was the caption 'Babe' under your picture. I was very disappointed not to find Joseph Fiennes in a frilly shirt when I scrolled up.

  5. This is so freaking awesome. Even if The Taming of the Shrew did nearly make me renounce my Shakespearean love (I KNOW, 10 Things I Hate About You. But the ABUSE in that play!) I still love him more than, like, most things in life. I have that Complete Works of Shakespeare cause I won it for being a nerd at college! And and and OMG Macbeth YES. Basically :D

  6. My mouth is watering just by reading your post. I'm currently reading Shakespeare, by Bill Bryson, and loving it so far, but of course having the words "Shakespeare" and "Bill Bryson" all in one sentence, it's already a winner for me <3.

    And you just reminded me, I have yet to read The Winter's Tale. I should give it a go... someday. Too many books to read, you know? ;-)

  7. I'm a huge Shakespeare nerd too! I'd recommend the BBC series Shakespeare Retold if you haven't seen them. They're fun!

  8. What a great list! I love watching Shakespeare, but very intimidated to read Shakespeare. However, I'm hoping to create a Shakespeare project for myself. Many of your Shakespeare-related suggestions are new to me, so I'm definitely going to keep them in mind.


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