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Friday, March 26, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

All right, so we’re a little past the Ides of March, but I couldn’t resist. Besides, Beware the End of March didn’t have the same ring. And, also, I do SO love to quote Shakespeare. Even better, I love to use Shakespeare when writing my books. To me, it adds a touch of refinement, fits perfectly with my Regency settings and my characters’ education level, and it can add a bit of foreshadowing or irony to my story.

There’s usually at least one Shakespearian reference in each of my books, though some are more blatant than others. For example, in my upcoming Tall, Dark, & Wolfish, my hero travels north to Scotland in search of a mystical witch. The poor fellow has images of Macbeth’s hooked-nosed, toil-and-trouble, havoc-causing witches so set in his mind the whole journey, he doesn’t have a prayer of recognizing the real witch he seeks, even when she’s looking him straight in the eye.

I also love to use Shakespeare to emphasize an ironic twist. Two gentlemen sit together in the theatre, watching a performance of Julius Caesar, and all the while, the reader knows that one of the two is about to betray the other. Or the naïve nephew who spends a night enjoying Richard III and is completely unaware that in real life, he needs to be wary of his power-hungry uncle. For me there is an underlying message when I write scenes like this. That whole know-your-history-and-learn-from-it-or-you’re-doomed-to-repeat-it thing we’ve always heard about.

For me it’s also fun using Shakespeare to help capture a specific feeling for either the book as a whole or for a certain character in particular. I once cast a hero’s actress/ex-mistress in the role of Lady Macbeth, which allowed the heroine to equate her perceived rival with that of the notoriously vicious Scottish noblewoman. And another time, I used Much Ado About Nothing as the performance a bickering couple, who shared one or two similarities with Beatrice and Benedick, had to sit through. Of course, their companions found the evening much more amusing than did the pair I was picking on.

William Shakespeare had such amazing range with his comedies, tragedies, and histories. I honestly believe there is a play out there to match anyone’s personality. For me, knowing which of his plays most suits a particular character can give me a more in depth look into the psyche of the person I’m creating. Do they prefer the whimsical comedies that leave one happy and light-hearted? Or the more serious histories that delve into larger-than-life historical figures? Or his heart-breaking tragedies which all seem to teach one life lesson or another?

So, now, I'm going to play Barbara Walters. Tell me… If you were a Shakespearian play, which play would you be? And can you guess which one fits me?

24 comments:

  1. Great blog. As usual, you've given us lots to think about. I don't know which Shakespeare tale is my story (maybe I'm that nephew of Richard III you mentioned, oblivious?) But my favorite is MacBeth. Yes, I know this is somewhat hilarious coming from me, the writer who goes around whining, "I don't do Scottish. I don't do paranormal." But Shakespeare gets his own set of rules, at least in my book.

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  2. I LOVE Shakespeare. LOVE him.

    Other English majors complain that they have to take an entire course on him and his works. I complained that there is only one Shakespeare course offered to undergraduates, and that we only read about half the plays in that single semester. If my school offered a degree in Shakespeare, that's what I'd get.

    My favorites tend to be either the histories or the tragedies. In particular, I love King Lear. It seems, to me, to have more layers of foreshadowing and symbolism and theme than most, and we all know that anything written by Shakespeare is heavy on all of the above. But, I'd have to say that the play that likely best fits my personality is Taming of the Shrew. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions. LOL.

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  3. My favorites have always been Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Perhaps if I were a Shakesperean Play I would be Taming of the Shrew, which gives me pause. But, I think I may prefer A Midsummer Night's Dream. Now I am going to be thinking about this all day. Too bad there isn't a quiz I can take that will tell me. Chances are it won't even be a comedy - lol.

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  4. "Did my heart love till now?" I'm Romeo and Juliet through and through. Two people blindly and passionaltely in love speak to my soul. I love a tragedy because it is real life. As for you, perhaps the Merry Wives of Windsor. The ladies turn the table and the husband gets his just desserts.

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  5. I would definitely be "As You Like It". The community of exiles is my life. But we have found a way to subsist with ourselves in our forest. In my opinion, AYLI is one of the most under-appreciated of Shakespeare's plays. There is no more beautiful recitation of life's truest experience than in the group who have been cast out and forced to find a new bond of sameness. Beautiful, beautiful play.

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  6. Gail - Do you have a hunched back, power hungry uncle who's after you? LOL

    Catherine - I know you love Shakespeare as much as I do, or maybe more. I won't comment on the Shrew reference. ;)

    Amy - I definitely see you as a Midsummer Night's Dream. Good choice.

    Julie! - Really? Romeo and Juliet? I guess I can see that. It's so depressing though. :(

    Merry Wives is a GREAT guess, but nope. :)

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  7. Oh, Rebecca! That's a great play. Great choice and great outlook on life!

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  8. Lydia, I'm thinking you definitely have to be one of the comedies. Maybe The Tempest? There's just something about all the drunkards and airy spirits and whatnot on that island...

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  9. LOL, Cathereine! I am a comedy, but not the Tempest.

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  10. According to this quiz, I'm the Comedy of Errors. I can see their point, LOL.

    http://www.okcupid.com/tests/18119087906896278936/Which-Shakespeare-Play-Are-You-

    What does it say you are? Do you think its right?

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  11. I took it too! And it was 100% accurate to what I thought.

    Thanks for the link, Catherine.

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  12. Hmmm...based on that, I'm going to have to hazard another guess as to which play fits you. Perhaps Much Ado About Nothing? Witty, lighthearted, perhaps a touch on the stubborn side?

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  13. According to the quiz, I'm Taming of the Shrew...I'm not all that surprised. LOL! That's one of my favorites, along with Much Ado, Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo & Juliet. I love putting Shakespeare into my stories as well - someone quotes him at least once in every book. And if someone is reading something, it's usually a Shakespeare play. I love that you use it to juxtapose the real life situations of the hero or heroine - very cool. I've tried doing that with Midsummer and it didn't work out so well. LOL!

    Great post, Lydia!

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  14. Catherine -

    I am MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Actually, I am the epitome of Beatrice. (Did you call me stubborn?)

    Jerrica -

    The Taming of the Shrew is great. And I loved the modern adaptation of Then Things I Hate About You.

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  15. LOL, you get upset about the stubborn, but not about the drunkards and airy spirits, huh? I did say a TOUCH stubborn...

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  16. I've really only read the Tragedies and Comedies. I must say King Lear and Hamlet are my favorites.

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  17. Beth, you are a reader after my own heart.

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  18. Beth -

    Great picks! Thanks for stopping by!

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  19. Hmm. For me, definitely a comedy. I have a mischievous side, and in my writing, I love humorous chaos. So, given these things, I'm going to say I am "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

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  20. Samantha - I think that's pretty apt. :)

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  21. Hmm, my favorite? I'm not real sure. I haven't read them all but of the ones I've read, I'd have to say a Midsummer Night's Dream. I took the test and it said I was Much ado about Nothing lol. I'd have to agree with it. Great blog Lydia! This was fun

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  22. Melissa - I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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  23. Lydia, I took the quiz, and I'm Romeo and Juliet. Is it my favorite play? Depends on my mood! I always say if you have any question about life, read some Shakespeare!

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  24. Allison - I completely agree. It's amazing how spot on he was with character motivation and amazing secondary characters!

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