Weekend Coffee Share 4/23/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting at a table by the window at my local coffee shop overlooking the lake.  The sun is shining, but do not be deceived!  It is colder outside than it looks.  As I write to you today, I actually AM at my local coffee shop.  Much to the chagrin of my family, our internet is down for the weekend.

Today is super exciting because it’s Shakespeare’s 453rd birthday!!  Someday, when I’m on my own with a circle of friends who live near me, I want to host annual birthday parties for the Bard.  I think it would be so much fun to have themed snacks, games, trivia, and readings.  For now, though, I’ll just reminisce about the time I toured his house in Stratford-Upon-Avon and watch the adaptation of Twelfth Night I rented from the library.  Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play or poem?

At my library this week, we had a MASSIVE donation!  A man brought in ten large boxes of books!  My Friday had been shaping up to be pretty boring, so I was thankful for something concrete to do.  I spent most of my afternoon sorting books by size, genre, and author.  Our sale area has been pretty pathetic lately, so it was really nice to fill it up with good books.

I took Saturday off work so I could get out and enjoy Earth Day!  It was a beautiful day–so sunny and warm that I got to wear shorts.  I planned attending my local March for Science, but arrangements fell through at the last minute.  So I instead went for a long hike at a local state park and thoroughly enjoyed being out in this beautiful world we live in.

Today, I’m feeling a bit under the weather.  I don’t know if it was all the exercise I had yesterday (I spent an hour helping my mom in her garden in addition to the hike) or the cooking at the fundraiser breakfast we went to after church, but my stomach isn’t feeling too great.  Around noon, I did something uncharacteristic and took a nap.  I normally don’t attempt sleep in the day, but today I definitely needed it.

How was your week?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share link up, now hosted by Nerd in the Brain.

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I found these tiny lovelies on my Earth Day hike!

Geeking out over the Bard

This semester, I have found myself reading Shakespeare.  (This is partially because I’m in a class devoted to the subject.)  But it’s become more than simple homework.

After my library shift on Fridays, I’ve found myself retreating to my room, dimming the lights, and lugging out my massive anthology.  I peer over the tiny print and let the words flow.  I read aloud and my voice changes in tone and pitch from character to character.  In my dark little room, the plays come to life.

We just finished reading Titus Andronicus.  Even though the subject material is some of the most depressing I’ve ever encountered, I still leave class feeling giddy and slightly breathless.

Why?  Because I just love Shakespeare.  I can’t get enough of him.  The careful structure of his plots, the complexities of his characters, the eloquence of his language… it just gets me.

And while we’re on the subject of Titus… it’s so gruesome that it’s funny.

(I had the chance to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company perform this live while in London!  It was splendid enough to deserve its own post, so check that out if you so choose.)

On the Shelf

With three literature classes, life these days is a never-ending stream of new books.  Here’s what I’ve been reading for class lately!

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

I’m reading this for my senior seminar.  It’s a biographical novel based on the life of Nat Turner, a slave condemned for leading an insurrection against his white owners in 1938 Virginia.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Styron imagines and explores the psychology of slavery and oppression.  Writing in the late 1960’s at the time of the Civil Rights and Black Power movement, he ties the cultural ideas of Nat’s time with the issues of the day.  Although it’s not something I’d read on my own, I’m enjoying getting to know Nat’s mind and delving deep into Styron’s complicated argument.

The Rape of Lucrece by William Shakespeare

In this long poem, Shakespeare takes on the classical myth of Lucrece, a chaste wife who is violently raped by Sextus Tarquin in ancient Rome.  In it, he delves deep into the minds of his characters, exploring the psychology of rape and its deeply rooted consequences.  It’s an extremely disturbing text, especially since so much of the mindsets are still so prevalent in rape culture today.  Although it left me extremely unsettled, I found myself enraptured in Shakespeare’s words and deeply moved.

Here’s a clip of an actress performing a musical rendering of the text:

The Art of Courtly Love by Andreas Capelanus

Commissioned by Marie, the Countess of Champagne in the late 12th Century, this is one of the most important texts in the Courtly Love tradition.  It’s written as a treatus addressed to a young man named Walter.  Cappelanus writes out the rules and guidelines of Courtly Love.  It’s a strange text, filled with discourses, rules, and statements that are shocking to readers today.  Honestly, this text was really hard to get through.  Although entertaining at points and definitely disturbing, it was really boring.

The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn

I’ve been sneaking chapters of this book in my free time.  I have to write a paper on it for my senior seminar in a few weeks.  Inspired by Dickinson’s letters and poetry, Charyn imagines the life of the beloved poet.  The novel begins with young Emily studying at Holyoke seminary and follows her life and development of writing.  What’s interesting about this book is that writing isn’t the emphasis–Charyn seems much more concerned with events in Emily’s life and how they impact her consciousness.  I’m not sure what I’ll say in my paper, but I do know that I adore this book so far.  Unlike so much assigned reading, it feels like reading for pleasure.  I’m about halfway through and find it utterly delightful.

450 Years

On this day, four hundred and fifty years ago, one of the greatest writers to pen in the English language came into the world.  That’s right… I’m talking about Shakespeare.

There’s a lot I can say about my experience with Shakespeare.  I could tell you about reading Romeo & Juliet in ninth grade and the five quizzes per act my teacher forced upon us.  I could tell you about the first time I saw one of his plays live–a production of Macbeth at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis five years ago.  I could tell you about the time I lived in England and got to see a show at the Globe.  Or when I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, toured his birth home, and cried a river of nerdy English major tears over his grave.

But, instead, I’m going to let the man speak for himself.  Here’s a passage from Hamlet–my favorite Shakespeare play thus far.  It comes from Act 2. Scene II where the title character talks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  When I stood in the room the Bard was born in, there was an actor sitting in the rafter reciting these words.  It was so beautiful, so poignant, I was rendered motionless, standing stupidly, unknown emotions pouring through my poor English major heart.  These words, on the surface, don’t appear to be anything special.  They’re not “to be or not to be”, or Macbeth’s “Out, out brief candle”… but in that moment, they were special.  So here they are.

I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
and queen moult no feather. I have of late–but
wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me…

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Here’s me standing in front of Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon!