“The play’s the thing”–or so Hamlet tells us.
One of the challenges for this year’s reading challenge is reading a play, and I figured this week being the 400-year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death was the perfect time to discuss this challenge.
We have a fair amount of plays in our system, and they’re overwhelmingly classics that you may or may not have encountered in school. So, when you’re ready for plays, we have lots to choose from, depending on what you want to read.
If you want to go truly old school, you can read Sophocles.
Or you can try for a comparatively more modern experience and read Shakespeare.
Or if you got your fill of him in school, you can try his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.
Or you can experience some comedy, 19th century British style, with George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.
Or you can travel to 19th century Ireland (via W. B. Yeats), Norway (via Henrik Ibsen), and Russia (via Anton Chekhov).
Or you can get really depressed about the modern world by reading Tennessee Williams, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and Edward Albee.
Or you can just embrace absurdity and read Samuel Becket.
Regardless of which ones you are interested in–and I certainly didn’t name all of the playwrights whose work we have–I am curious to get your thoughts on reading plays. Is it something you enjoy? Do you dread it?
Personally, I didn’t mind reading plays in school. In fact, I often enjoyed it and several of the playwrights I mentioned above are personal favorites (specifically Shakespeare, Wilde, Ibsen, Williams, Miller, and Becket).
But even though I often enjoyed the plays, I always did end up thinking, “I hope we get to watch this in class. If not, I really need to watch this now.”
I had some friends who thought it was utterly pointless to read plays because the texts were intended to be performed. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it utterly pointless, but I don’t think this emphasis on the need to watch a performance of the material is wrong.
So, to that end, where do you stand on the issue of reading plays?
P.S. If you read a published screenplay for a movie, I think that should count for this challenge. (Provided it’s published in a book and not just off of one of those badly-formatted websites where people type what they think they heard in the movie.) In fact, that’s what I did for this challenge. I read Bruce Robinson’s official Withnail and I script, published by Bloomsbury Film Classics. It was both hilarious and heartbreaking, kind of like the movie. (It’s a personal copy I own, but if you’re interested, we can try to get it for you through ILL.)
Also don’t forget you can check out our online catalog to learn more about what plays we have for each of the aforementioned authors, check availability, and place holds.
What play/screenplay are you planning to read for this challenge? What’s your favorite play? Least favorite play? What’s your favorite quote from a play? Tell us in the comments!