Thanks to the wonders of magical, lying VPN services, I got to sneak in a watch of Muse of Fire [Warning, video begins to automatically play on the site, SHAME ON YOU DAN AND GILES.] on the BBC iPlayer. I really wanted to watch this slim little documentary because I was in on interviewing Dan Poole for The Reel Britain and it sounded like great fun. And also, I’m a giant Shakespeare nerd, for all that my Shakespeare nerd cred is often called into question because I cannot memorize for shit.
The documentary is excellent. It’s very personal, since it’s all about following Dan and Giles on their journey, and it’s done with a lot of love and humor. Hopefully it’ll be available to American audiences who don’t want to engage in internet cheating relatively soon. And the interviews they got–aaaa! Dame Judi Dench! (I got to shake Dan’s hand, so does that mean I’m now one degree separated from Judi Dench oh my god I’m hyperventilating.) The topic is framed as Dan and Giles getting over their own fear of Shakespeare, so it goes to why people find his work so intimidating and how it can be made more accessible.
Anyway, good documentary, watch it when you can, Dan and Giles are both adorable and adorkable and they put the film together in a very fun way.
One point they bring up is often, how someone first comes to Shakespeare is really what colors their feelings for the rest of their life. (Though when you put it like that, it sounds like when people talk about how they came to Jesus, and it becomes quite evangelical.) I’ve always been bothered by how Shakespeare is presented as so intimidating and impenetrable, because I never really found him to be so… but I also got into Shakespeare entirely because of Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 Henry V movie. He got me when I was young.
Which was for the best, come to think of it. When we hit Shakespeare in school, the first (and sometimes only) play that seems to get done is Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know why. Maybe teenagers are supposed to identify with the characters more, since they’re teens as well, but ugh. I just thought they were very stupid, to be honest. (I can appreciate the play more now, but as a bitter and angry teenager, not so much.) I think if that had been my first exposure to Shakespeare, I wouldn’t like him nearly so much now.
But instead, thanks to Branagh’s Henry, I’m stuck on Shakespeare. I was even excited to take a Shakespeare for Non-Majors class as an undergrad, despite the fact that it was an 8am class (yes, those are things that exist and proof that we live in a godless universe of pain) and the teacher constantly used the word problematize. I read and re-read plays all the time now, though the funny thing is, I still have difficulties with Shakespeare when I’m just reading it to myself.
Which is why I read it out loud to my cats. Shut up, that’s totally normal. I’m teaching the furry little bastards to love Shakespeare too.