Blast from the Past - A foray into Shakespeare’s Wilde World
The joy of literary fiction, or more specifically Shakespearean-era prose and poetry is of course, an altogether heady guilty pleasure, whose gift keeps on giving.
CHENNAI: To read or not — there never should be a doubt in your mind. The glorious act of reading not only enriches your vocabulary but also introduces you to a whole new set of ideas and viewpoints that can broaden your horizon in unexpected ways. The joy of literary fiction, or more specifically Shakespearean-era prose and poetry is of course, an altogether heady guilty pleasure, whose gift keeps on giving. Here’s an eclectic selection of pre-20th century works that are challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)
This comedy of manners is a whip-smart critique of English society in the 1600s. It calls out the sophistication and pseudo-intellectualism of the upper echelons of society prevalent in the Restoration period (1660-1685). The satirical play by Irish playwright, poet, and author, Oscar Wilde is a wild frenzy of mistaken identities, marital discord, aristocratic idiosyncrasies and more. In short, it talks about the importance of being Earnest. The plot revolves around two friends Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff. One of them adopts an alter ego named ‘Ernest’ which leads to a series of chaotic but humorous episodes.
Dr Faustus (Christopher Marlowe)
Dr Faustus or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. This play could be loosely termed as the literary precursor to Breaking Bad, and every other antihero story ever written. The play revolves around Dr Faustus’s thirst for knowledge, which leads him to make a deal with the Devil, unforgettably named Mephistopheles (say my name, anybody?) How Dr Faustus’s contract pits him in a world of riches, temptations, not to forget, eternal damnation lies at the heart of this story. This play was written by a contemporary of William Shakespeare, known as Christopher Marlowe in the year 1592. The piece is acclaimed for its wicked and irreverent humour that might ruffle the puritans, and throw any holier than thou notions right out the window.
Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare)
Twelfth Night is a comedy written by the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare in the year (1601 - 1602). This acclaimed play is known for its bold portrayal of a gay relationship. Mind you, this is not the progressive woke generation of the noughties we are talking about. It’s England in the 1600s, almost a century before its colonies in the New World such as Massachusetts would gain infamy for burning women at the stake on account of them being branded as the witches of Salem. Back to William, the plot revolves around twins, Viola and Sebastian being separated by a shipwreck. It’s a happy ending, unlike some of the Bard’s more stomach churning works. If you can make it through the long winded passages, you’re in for a rollicknig time.
The Spanish Tragedy (Thomas Kyd)
The Spanish Tragedy (circa 1582-92) is a vendetta tale written by English playwright and author Thomas Kyd. This play established revenge tragedy as a force of nature in the world of literature. It explores a character’s inextinguishable desire for vendetta. The need for this revenge could be real, fictitious or the fallout of a misunderstanding. No spoilers here, but not all is well by the end. The plot of this play revolves around the ghost of Don Andrea encouraging Hieronimo to avenge his death. A deep dive into such works might offer you a unique insight into the post mediaeval era, a time that was arguably far removed from the age of reason.