19 September 2019
Reading David Nicholl’s Sweet Sorrow for our Book Club this summer brought memories of studying Shakespeare at school flooding back. In the novel, a post-GCSE am-dram group are putting on Romeo & Juliet and our parallel lovers, Fran and Charlie study the lines in minute detail together. We journey through that familiar feeling from wondering, what on earth does it all mean….? To the wonder-punch that comes with working it out. In trying to get the troupe in the mood, the play’s director Ivor reels off all the familiar expressions that began with the Bard – ‘the world’s your oyster’, ‘jealousy’s the green-eyed monster’, ‘laughing stock’ and more. A reminder for us readers too.
In the spirit of this newly-renewed enthusiasm we’re loving Allie Esiri’s latest book, Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year. The picture doesn’t do justice to just how beautiful the hardback cover is – shiny and enticing like her other books, it’s impossible to resist picking up. And once you do you’re in for a treat; each day of the year includes a snappy introduction from Esiri and a piece of Shakespeare to suit the shifting season. Esiri, also behind the iF Poetry app, The Love Book app, and several anthologies including A Poem for Every Day of the Year, and A Poem for Every Night of the Year, again applies her deft skill in making poetry both accessible and exciting; there are sonnets, extracts from his 37 plays and sections of longer poems. The joy of the format is that you can dip in and out, and focus on just a short and manageable piece at a time – which works particularly well with a writer like Shakespeare for whom just a few short couplets can contain an entire story.
Allie Esiri’s Shakespeare for Every Day of the Year is published on 19 September in hardback, and the audiobook will also be released then with recordings from Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory, Sir Simon Russell Beale and more. The cast for the National Theatre live event is yet to be revealed, but Esiri’s past shows have included stellar line-up’s (Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Mangan, Joanna Lumley, Giles Terera, Sam West, Sheila Atim etc). Book tickets to an evening of Shakespeare on 11 November at 6pm here.
And finally, as a taster of the book, here’s an extract from September about the changing seasons:
September 11 | Henry VI, Part 2 | Act 2 Scene 4
The changing of seasons often signals a changing of gear for Shakespeare, and the transition from summer to winter brings as much foreboding as the summer’s return after winter brings hope. His characters and their imaginary landscape move in perfect synchronicity. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, muses on the transience of joy in terms of the fleeting seasons, as he prepares for his wife’s departure – she has been banished for engaging in witchcraft in an attempt to put her husband on the throne.
Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, and his wrathful nipping cold;
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.