Tag: Macbeth

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Posted June 2, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

The Gap of Time by Jeanette WintersonTitle: The Gap of Time (Goodreads)
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Series: Hogarth Shakespeare
Published: Hogarth, 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I have not read many of Shakespeare’s plays. I remember in high school I did do Romeo and Juliet and all I remember is watching the movie. Since starting my reading journey, I have now read Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Hogarth have announced that they will be releasing modern retellings (they are calling them cover versions) of Shakespeare plays in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his passing. This will be including books by Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson. The first novel in this series is Jeanette Winterson’s interpretation of The Winter’s Tale called The Gap of Time.

I had to read The Gap of Time for book club and I will admit I was nervous, having never read the original play, but was happy to finally check out something by Jeanette Winterson. I am not sure if not reading The Winter’s Tale, put me at a disadvantage but I approached this book as a new story, not knowing what parts are influenced directly from the original text. I noticed many themes of identity, jealousy, forgiveness, parenting, power, race and sexuality but unsure if this was the work of Winterson. I know Jeanette Winterson often explores sexual identity in her novels but that does not mean William Shakespeare did not have an interest in the topic.

I read this book more like a coming of age story, exploring the idea of family in a modern day setting. There are elements of romance but for the most part it was a story of discovery and identity. It was playful (with quotes from Shakespeare in the text) and at times tragic. I think this is a balance that Shakespeare does really well in the plays I have read and Jeanette Winterson seemed to capture this really well in The Gap of Time.

I found this to be an enjoyable novel even if I could not compare it to the original text. I am impressed with Jeanette Winterson but I would be more interested in checking out what she can do without being constrained to a pre-set plot. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Sexing the Cherry are both books I would love to read in the near future. As for the Hogarth cover versions, I am not sure how many I will read. There are some great authors being selected but I think reading the original text beforehand would be a huge advantage. Only problem is, I have a huge reading list already and not sure when I will get a chance to read more Shakespeare.


Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Posted December 4, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

Tragedy of Macbeth by William ShakespeareTitle: Tragedy of Macbeth (Goodreads)
, 1606
Pages: 249
Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I probably don’t need to go into too much detail about the plot of Macbeth as most people are aware of what it is about. The Tragedy of Macbeth is obviously a tragedy the legendary playwright William Shakespeare, and is often considered his darkest play. Set in Scotland, the play explores the destructive psychological and political effects that form when evil is used as a method of gaining power. It is generally believed that this was written between the Elizabethan Era and the Jacobean Era, around about 1599 to 1606.

The Elizabethan Era was generally regarded as a ‘golden age’ for England. Colonialism was strong, England has dominating the seas (defeating the Spanish Armada) and there was great commercial wealth to be found in the ‘New World’. However the Jacobean Era was different; James VI of Scotland inherited the throne in 1603 and things seemed to change drastically. The ‘Gunpowder Plot’ of 1605 failed to assassinate the king and the plotters were executed. This possibly led to the King commissioning a new translation of the bible; the ‘King James Version’ was first published in 1611.

The reason I talk about these two eras is that there seems to be a connection to Macbeth. Set in Scotland, Macbeth seems to reflect the atmosphere of the Jacobean Era and there has been speculation to the play alluding to the Gunpowder Plot. However to try to draw direct correlations between Macbeth and the political situations of the time would require a lot of speculation. I just added this information into this review because there are connections that I feel would be relevant or interesting to readers of this play.

I was lucky enough to have experienced Macbeth as a play being performed before ever reading it for my university course. There is something about the performance that was essential to critically reading the text; I already understood the plot, the tone and the overall emotions behind the words and this allowed me to grasp a lot more out of the play. One thing that I picked up in reading Macbeth that I seemed to have missed was the importance of gender roles within the play.

Let’s look at one example which appears in Act 1 scene 7. Within the scene Macbeth is having second thoughts about killing the king and taking the crown. Lady Macbeth scolds Macbeth and manipulates him to go through with his original plan. How does she do this? Simply by calling him a coward and telling him he is not a man. She even suggested that she is more of a man and stated  she would kill her own child; taking that child from her breast and smash its head against a wall.

There are other themes that are prominent within Macbeth, but the idea of masculinity verses femininity seems to stick with me the most. This idea that claiming you are more of a man than someone else is a common occurrence but the way Shakespeare presented this graphic manipulation really stuck with me. Obviously feminist literary studies would have a field day with this play. I have been picking more and more issues to do with feminism within literature, but I would rather be looking at Marxism or psychoanalyst; why does this keep happening?

Macbeth is this wonderfully dark play that has a lot to offer; I can see why Shakespeare remains a legend. I am not really sure how to review a play like this; there is so much to talk about with plot and theme, however I would rather people discover that for themselves. I do feel like this review turned into something that would resemble a Jackson Pollock with random thoughts flicked onto a page but I wanted to get some of my thoughts down.


My Spring Reading List (for University)

Posted September 6, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in What are you Reading / 0 Comments

2014-09-04 17.00.12-2I’m back at university for another semester. This time I’m doing a course called Great Books part 1 (whatever that means). I’m actually very nervous and excited about this as I will be reading some very scary books. I’ve been doing an English Literature course part time and I feel like it will take me a very long time to finish this course. Studying online means I have a lot more flexible and that is hopeful for balancing my time between both work and study, however it also means it will take awhile. I thought I would share this list with you, not for sympathy but I’m hoping people might offer some advice (or encouragement) about getting through these books.

  • The Odyssey by Homer (translated by Walter Shewring)
  • Beowulf (translated by Michael Alexander)
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (translated by Nevill Coghill)
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I think this is going to be hard, I don’t often read anything that was released before the 1800’s.


Guest Post: The Problem with Literature

Posted October 3, 2013 by Guest Post in Guest Posts, Literature / 0 Comments

Want to be the next Shakespeare? Forget literature. Shakespeare wasn’t trying to write enlightened literary fiction. He was writing the Elizabethan equivalent of daytime television – easily digestible, relatable stories (mostly stolen from elsewhere and given a quick spit and polish to make them look and sound new) that would appeal to an audience of mostly illiterate working-class people. He didn’t care about being a great artist or creating work that would last for centuries. He just wanted to make money.

I think modern literary authors forget that. They want to create art. They want to be taken seriously. God forbid their work be mistaken for trashy pulp fiction. God forbid it be accessible. True art, according to the modern literary author, is by nature elitist. In order to understand it, one must have more sophisticated tastes than the types of people who read mass-produced romances or pulpy sci-fi thrillers. One has to be discerning. Every great literary author wants to be remembered as the next iconic genius.

Except that our last iconic genius wrote exactly the kinds of fiction these aspiring greats treat with such derision. Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth – these might be timeless classics, but to The Bard, they were how he paid the bills, and to the people who paid to see his plays performed, they were the equivalent of a good popcorn flick. We talk about Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe, Dickens, Conan Doyle as though they were trying to create enduring works of highbrow literature. They weren’t; they were writers working at their trade. It just so happens that they were very good at it, which is why we still enjoy their work today. But they had no lofty aspirations, no desire to be seen as anything more than working writers. Oh, sure, Shakespeare enjoyed the patronage of two successive monarchs. I’m not denying that he was a master wordsmith and a well-regarded one at that. But to the people who crowded into the globe to watch his work play out on stage, he was nothing more than an entertainer. Not an artiste, not a figure of reverence. He wrote theatre for the masses. He was Elizabethan England’s answer to JK Rowling, not Vonnegut.

If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d probably be writing for some wildly successful primetime drama. Dickens and Conan Doyle, were they to stick to the serial formats they preferred, would probably find a home in graphic novels. Byron was something of a poseur, but he wrote his generation’s equivalent of Harlequin romances. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters? They’d have been penning this summer’s hottest chick lit. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing things that people will enjoy just because they’re fun. There’s nothing wrong with writing to entertain, to captivate, to thrill. And just because work is engaging and accessible, doesn’t mean it can’t also be challenging, thought-provoking and enduringly popular.

The Bard was a genius at his craft, no doubt about it. I just came home from a fantastically staged production of Macbeth, a play still enjoyed by audiences around the world centuries after Shakespeare’s death. I hope to one day pass on my love of Shakespeare to my children. But I’ll also pass on my love of fantasy novels, detective mysteries, cheesy sci-fi and even the odd paranormal romance. Why not? Fiction is meant to be fun. Sure, it can also be a lot of other things, but if we don’t enjoy reading it on some level, what’s the point?

If you’re writing for an audience of people who think enjoying fiction for its own sake is below them, you’ll never be the next Shakespeare, or the next Marlowe, or the next Dickens or Mark Twain or Agatha Christie or Jane Austen. Hell, you won’t even be the next JK Rowling (and believe me – someday, we’ll talk about her work with the same reverence we reserve for the works of long-dead white men today). Don’t focus on creating literature. Focus on creating great entertainment. Take your readers somewhere new. Give them a means of escaping. Take an old story and make it sing again. Make it fun, for heaven’s sakes, because I can guarantee you that five hundred years from now, we won’t be talking about dry and dusty tomes written by pretentious poseurs with delusions of grandeur. We’ll be talking about what was popular, just like we do now. We’ll be talking about theatre for the masses. We’ll be talking about this generation’s Shakespeares. And if you’re not willing to do what he did – to write for all people, to amuse, to engage, to entertain – then you’ll never be one of them.

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