The Duchess of Malfi
By: John Webster
The evils of greed and ambition overwhelm love, innocence, and the bonds of kinship in this dark tragedy concerning the secret marriage of a noblewoman and a commoner. John Webster’s great Jacobean drama detailing the fiendish schemes of two brothers who desire their wealthy sister’s title and estates ends with a bloody and horrifying climax.
I learned about this play from a production held at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse last year (starring Gemma Arterton!). My pile of Shakespeare plays is growing smaller and as you may have noticed I’m beginning to branch out a bit to other playwrights, his contemporary or otherwise.
Here we are again, another batch of mini-reviews that couldn’t possibly warrant their own review posts. This pbatch is mostly plays/poetry-oriented, as well as one DNF *le sigh*
Without further ado…
By: Percy Bysshe Shelley
One of the most ambitious dramatic poems ever written, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound tells the story of the Titan Prometheus who gave mankind the secret of fire in open defiance to the decrees of Zeus, and who, as punishment for this generosity, was chained to the Caucasus Mountains and exposed to horrible tortures. Inspired by the Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, Shelley’s play serves as a sort of sequel, matching its Greek predecessor in stature and pure poetic power. It depicts its philanthropist hero’s ultimate triumph over the superstition and bigotry of the gods. As Shelley himself stated in his Defence of Poetry, Prometheus Unbound awakens and enlarges the mind.
I honestly wouldn’t have thought about picking up this dramatic play anytime in the near future except that it was mentioned in Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life (review) and my curiosity was piqued (turns out though that the lines Matthew recited was not from this dramatic poem but from another poem, “The Cloud” (read here), but anyway). It’s an intriguing play following Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound and it’s an intriguing look at humanity and nature, good and evil, freedom and enslavement, etc. It’s very lyrical–so much so that it’s very easy to get lost in the plot (pfft, do I even know the plot?). But it’s still very pretty to read with some very poignant passages here and there.
Oh, apparently The Painted Veil (review) got its title from a line in this epic. How did that detail from that novel slip my mind? 😛 Anyway, if you’re looking for some epic poetry to read with some really gorgeous passages, I think this is worth checking out 🙂
By: William Shakespeare
Conspiracies and intrigue are rife in the court of Henry VIII as a Duke is executed for treason, having been tricked by the Cardinal. And when the King falls in love with Anne Bullen and decides to divorce his wife, he causes an irrevocable rift with the Catholic Church. After the King’s secret marriage to Anne, courtiers fall in and out of favour and deaths abound, with far-reaching consequences.
Sad but funny story: in counting how many plays remain that I have yet to read, I totally forgot about this play. I guess it goes to show how often it’s remembered in the entire body of work, which is pretty sad :3 I’m honestly surprised that he decided to write a play on Henry VIII given how recent his reign was, but given everything that happened during his time, it seemed pretty ripe to stage a drama (I mean, why else do we have all these adaptations and historical fiction titles focusing in and around Henry’s reign?) 😉
Timon of Athens
By: William Shakespeare
After squandering his wealth with prodigal generosity, a rich Athenian gentleman finds himself deep in debt. Unshaken by the prospect of bankruptcy, he is certain that the friends he has helped so often will come to his aid. But when they learn his wealth is gone, he quickly finds that their promises fall away to nothing in this tragic exploration of power, greed, and loyalty betrayed.
I’m slowly making my way through the remaining histories by Shakespeare 😉 Up next for me was Timon of Athens which, like Pericles (review), I knew absolutely nothing about 😛
By: William Shakespeare
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, must solve a riddle in order to marry the daughter of the King of Antioch or be put to death. But when the answer reveals a horrific secret. Danger and adventure follow as Pericles flees the city to find his fortune elsewhere in a romantic drama of families lost and reunited, evil punished and virtue rewarded.
So when I decided to pick up this play, I only had five of Shakespeare’s plays left to read. I ended up going with this play because of this comic (spoilers, by the way!) which was pretty hilarious (I highly recommend her comics by the way, they’re hilarious and fun). The premise sounds interesting too, makes you wonder if this falls under the tragedy or the comedy side (I know almost nothing about this play so this should be quite the experience).