Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2017)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

During March 2017, Pages Unbound will be running our fourth Tolkien Reading Event.  Every year on March 25, the Tolkien Society celebrates Tolkien Reading Day, and we like to expand on the event by hosting several days’ worth of Tolkien-related content.  We have had some wonderful guest posts in the past and would like to invite you to submit a guest post this year.

Update: The Tolkien Society has announced that the 2017 theme will be Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.

Post Options

The Tolkien Reading Event is open to a wide variety of posts.  In previous events, we have featured everything from book reviews to quizzes to serious literary criticism.   Pitch us an idea for any type of post you would like!  You can also review books and movies that have been featured before; we love new perspectives! See a full list of past posts here.

If you need ideas, we are particularly open to posts about:

  • the official theme: poetry and songs in Tolkien’s fiction
  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the art of Middle-Earth
  • a tour of your Tolkien collection (books or merchandise)
  • The Story of Kullervo (or Tolkien and the Kalevala)
  • Tolkien’s influence on other fantasy works
  • Tolkien’s villains
  • your personal journey reading Tolkien
  • reviews of books about (not by) Tolkien
  • reflections on Tolkien’s “minor” works (Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major, Roverandom)

Details

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the Google form below.  We will begin the event on Monday, March 20, and so would like to receive guest posts by March 13.  We will contact everyone with final details around that time (such as what day your guest post will be scheduled).  Please feel free to spread the word to fellow Tolkien fans!

Update: We had a couple questions about post length. We have no specific target length, just however long you feel you need to address the topic.

*LOTR clip art by Nesca at CuteGraphicSupply.

Double Falsehood by Lewis Theobald (Or the Alleged Adaptation of a Lost Shakespeare Play)

Double FalsehoodINFORMATION

Goodreads: Double Falsehood
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1728

SUMMARY

In 1727, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane presented a production of Lewis Theobald’s Double Falsehood; or, The Distrest Lovers.  Theobald claimed he had adapted a play by William Shakespeare from manuscripts  now lost.  Scholars since have been divided over whether Theobald’s play is really an adaptation of a lost play called Cardenio by Shakespeare and Fletcher or if Theobald is the mastermind behind one of the world’s great forgeries.

Double Falsehood follows the machinations of Henriquez, the younger son of the Duke.  Henriquez woos the lower-born Violante, rapes her, then leaves her to pursue another woman, Leonora.  Henriquez knows his friend Julio is planning to become engaged to Leonora, so he lures Julio away to court so he can force Leonora into a marriage with him in Julio’s absence.  The Duke’s older son Roderick, worried about his brother’s behavior, follows him and tries to right his wrongs.

Review

The introduction to the Arden edition edited by Brean Hammond (2010) notes that this play, based on an episode in Don Quixote, is rather short and uneven–both indications that it could very well be an adaptation of an earlier work.  Hammond also points out that some irregularities in the text could have resulted from its pruning–two lowerclass characters appear in a scence, announce they will follow Henriquez, then disappear; Violante and Julio know each other but audiences don’t know how; the plot promises a scene in which the one of the characters will pretend to be a corpse, but never stages it.  This is all very interesting if you want to speculate on whether Theobald forged the play or not.  It does not, however, make for smooth reading.

I enjoyed Double Falsehood because it is the type of crazy and convoluted plot that I would expect from a late Shakespeare.  However, it is, first of all, more disturbing than many of Shakespeare’s plays.  His plays are noted for problematic endings, but here we have an ending in which the “happy” part comes from Henriquez marrying the wronged Violante.  He raped her.  I guess he’s saving her reputation by marrying her afterwards, but I felt sick when I read it.  Secondly, the play is, quite simply, choppy.  It feels like a series of scenes thrown together without ample time for full character development or any space left for the reader to breathe.  I know shortening Shakespeare’s plays to make them easier for audiences to comprehend was a thing back in the day, but that doesn’t mean the explanatory bits have to be cut.

I really think this could be a great play if only we could have had the Shakespeare/Fletcher original.  (Yes, I’m choosing a side in the debate. It seems like a play that they would have written and the version we have now seems definitely like something someone hacked apart while trying to “adapt” it.)  As it is now, it’s still a compelling story.  Just really rough around the edges.

3 starsKrysta 64

Where Are Shakespeare’s Women?

Shakespeare 2

As we become increasingly aware of the ways in which women have been written out of history, we look back at Shakespeare and we might find ourselves saddened or annoyed at the lack of women in his plays.  However, we have to keep in mind that in Shakespeare’s time, women did not perform on stage.  Any female roles were performed by boy actors.  Thus Shakespeare could only write as many female roles as there were boys in the company.

When Restoration theatre companies began staging Shakespeare’s plays, they were bothered by the lack of female characters, too–because they introduced the actress to the stage in England.  Eager to show off their new talent, companies performed adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays with added female characters including a sister for Caliban, a love interest (or two) for Timon of Athens, and a lady companion for Imogen (from Cymbeline).

Today we tend to stage the original Shakespeare and not the Restoration adaptations.  However, though this means that female roles have once again decreased, Shakespeare, when he writes women, often makes them remarkable.  A few of my favorites include:

  • Paulina from The Winter’s Tale: The only one bold enough to tell King Leontes he’s mad.
  • Hermione from The Winter’s Tale: She possesses great nobility and grace, even when threatened with death.
  • Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing: Sharp-witted and fun!
  • Cordelia from King Lear: She holds fast to her principles and remains loyal to her father, despite adversity.

Who are some of your favorite women in Shakespeare?

Why You Shouldn’t Be Intimidated by Shakespeare

Shakespeare 2

The Bard occupies an unusual place in Western culture.  Hailed as the epitome of Western genius, he has gone through history with varying reputations, known first for his poetry and later for his plays, lauded for the naturalness of his characters and the moral soundness of some of his plays, but later appreciated for the complexity of his verse and the moral ambiguity of his characters.  To know and love Shakespeare is to mark one’s self among the cultured elite.  And yet Shakespeare also graces mugs, T-shirts, and pub signs, like any pop culture character.

Everyone feels like they know Shakespeare, yet Shakespeare is also intimidating.   His language is unfamiliar and his plots convoluted.  He’s supposedly for the educated yet most people suffer through Romeo and Juliet in high school.  That experience is enough to keep many away from Shakespeare for life.  And yet, Shakespeare is more accessible than might at first be apparent.  And he’s more delightful than might be clear from a high school teacher’s feeble attempts at making the star-crossed loves of thirteen-year-olds sound plausible.

Here are some reasons the Bard isn’t as scary as you might think.

  1. Shakespeare wrote for money and he wrote for the masses.  Yes, his plays were enjoyed by nobles, but they were also patronized by common people who would pay a small fee to stand in the pit and watch the performance.  The average Londoner could follow the plays–and so can you!
  2. Shakespeare filled his plays with  bawdy jokes.  Some scholars turn up their noses at the low humor or carefully gloss over the many mentions of, um, body parts, but these parts attracted audiences and often provide a bit of levity in otherwise heavy plays.  It’s interesting to note how the Bard’s shining reputation of genius allows society to ignore his fondness for indelicate language.
  3. Shakespeare didn’t write or speak Old English.  That was the language of the Anglo-Saxons; you can see it if you look up the original text of Beowulf.  Even though Shakespeare’s language might sound archaic to us or stilted, it’s actually modern English.
  4. Even literary critics find fault with some of Shakespeare’s verse or plays.  Some of them have even challenged the authorship of plays, determining them to be so bad that they believe their idol could never have written them.  If you think a passage is dense, a verse unclear, or a play horrible, you’re not uncultured but joining many educated individuals who think the same.

So how do you start to approach Shakespeare?

  1. Shakespeare was meant to be performed.  Watching an movie version like Branagh’s or Tennant’s Hamlet can help you understand the plot more fully and enable you to hear how different actors interpret different lines.  Maybe you thought a line was serious, but the actor thought it was ironic–now that scene makes more sense!
  2. You can read the play while listening to an audio version.  Keep in mind that some audio versions skip parts, especially the less politically correct verses, so you might be a bit confused when the dialogue doesn’t match up.
  3. Get a version of the play that’s adequately glossed.  You will encounter unfamiliar words and convoluted metaphors.  There’s no shame in not knowing them; often it took years of scholarship for people to understand what parts of Shakespeare mean.  There are still some verses that baffle scholars.
  4. Keep in mind that you don’t need to understand every line to understand and appreciate the play.  Shakespeare’s theatre was crowded and noisy.  Possibly many of the audience couldn’t hear parts of the play.  If they missed parts or didn’t understand the sense of the verse, they couldn’t go back to reread them.  But they could follow the general action and you can, too.
  5. Recognize that you don’t need to love every Shakespeare play you read.  Some of his earlier works aren’t universally admired and many of his plays aren’t performed very often these days because they’re deemed uninteresting or hard to stage.  Try to find a genre that you like, whether it’s comedy or history or tragedy and start there.
  6. Start off with a retelling.  A movie like Ten Things I Hate About You might make you eager to read the original (The Taming of the Shrew, in this case–a play notorious for its misogyny and thus interesting to watch people attempt to adapt).
  7. Just have fun.  Shakespeare was probably a chill guy who would be confused by the way people idolize his work.  Ignore his reputation and let his work speak for itself.

Krysta 64

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along: Wrap-Up

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along

This is the final wrap-up post for the July Anne of Green Gables Read-Along!  Thank you so much to everyone who participated. It was so much fun to read with you and discuss the book. If you have a review or any final thoughts, please leave us all a link in the comments so we can check it out!


I wrote a review of Anne of Green Gables previously, and Krysta has a whole L.M. Montgomery event planned for October. So instead of writing another review, I just want to list some of my general thoughts and impressions after reading the book this time.

Anne of Green Gables

  1. Anne of Green Gables is just so good. I know I’ve said this before, but I am always amazed by how much I love this book. I’ve probably read it at least 15 times now, and it’s always enjoyable.  This is not one of those books that was great when I read it as a child but falls flat when I read it as an adult.  It is not a book I ever get tired of.  Every time Montgomery manages to draw me into the story.  It’s one of my favorite books, and I imagine it always will be.
  2. Anne always inspires me.  Anne certainly has her failings, but she’s also incredibly kind and optimistic.  Every time I read the book, I make an informal commitment to live a little bit more like her: seeing good in everyone and joy in even the little things as life. (How delightful to be excited by something as simple as sleeping in a spare room bed!) I want to see all the potential in the world that Anne does.
  3. Diana is still boring, and I’m sorry I think so.  I have never particularly liked Diana and have always been a bit baffled why Anne loves her so.  I think I finally have the solution though: Diana would be a lovely person to know in real life, but is completely dull as a book character. She has the singular problem of just being too nice.  As far as one can tell, Diana never gets into trouble or does anything untoward (besides that bed-jumping incident, where she was peer-pressured by Anne). Diana is always lady-like and polite.  She always obeys her mother and respects adults. She’s a wonderful person.  She just doesn’t have enough rebelliousness to do something bad or enough imagination to do something ridiculous just because she thinks it would be fun.  There’s just no story in a person like that.
  4. Montgomery’s prose is beautiful. I always know that Montgomery is a wonderful writer in the back of my mind, but rereading her books always reminds me with full force.  She has everything down: gorgeous descriptions, individual voices for each character’s dialogue, the ability to write something either biting or beautiful.  I love YA books, but many modern authors are far more concerned with plot than prose. Montgomery does both with amazing skill. If I could write like anyone, I think I might choose her.

Briana

5 Reasons to Read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Guest Post by Amy McCaw)

Classic Literature Event

This July Pages Unbound is celebrating classic literature with a collection of guest posts. We asked other readers to tell us what one of their favorite classics is and why we should read it.

Amy McCaw is a blogger at YA Under My Skin, who is almost as enthusiastic about classics as YA books. (@yaundermyskin)


Wildfell Hall (1)

There’s a lot of love out there for Charlotte and Emily Brontë and for good reason. I’ve read most of their books and they’re consistently brilliant. I’m not here to discuss the two best known Brontës. When I was at university, I first read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë, and it soon became one of my favourite classics. I hope by the end of this post that I can convince you to pick up a copy!

These are the reasons why I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:

1. The plot

A mysterious widow, Helen Graham, arrives at the rundown Wildfell Hall and attracts the attention of Gilbert Markham and the whole of their small community. This is not just another classic about a young girl who is swept away by a sulking scoundrel (although there are plenty in the book if you like that sort of thing).

2. The narrator

I loved the fact that this was from Gilbert’s point of view because you got to unravel the mystery of Mrs. Graham along with him! He’s a very endearing but flawed character quite different from the aforementioned rogues.

3. The format

The narrative unfolds as a sequence of letters and diary entries written by Gilbert and Helen, enabling the reader to piece the events together from the different character’s viewpoints.

4. Helen and Feminism

Obviously there wasn’t a lot of room to be a feminist at the time but Helen definitely tries! She encourages her young friend Ester not to marry for money and herself is determined to marry for love.

5. The setting

The Brontes lived in the beautiful Yorkshire village of Haworth (where you can still visit their Parsonage Home!) This book strongly evokes the wild and gorgeous landscape of the Yorkshire Moors.

A photo I took in Haworth August 2015

A photo I took in Haworth August 2015

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a fabulous classic and Anne Brontë deserves to be as well-known as her sisters.

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES READ-ALONG: DISCUSSION 4 (CHPT. 30-38)

Anne of Green Gables Read-Along

Here is the fourth set of discussion questions for our Anne of Green Gables read-along.  If you would like to sign up, you are free to do so at any point throughout the read-along. The sign-up post also has the schedule for the event, including discussion questions and other activities.

Feel free to answer the questions on your own blog and leave us a link in the comments, or just answer in the comments.  You can also answer the questions even if you are not officially reading with us.

The final recap and review will be posted next Sunday.  To tweet about the read-along, you can use the hashtag #readAnneShirley.

Fun Fact

From The Annotated Anne of Green Gables edited by Wendy E. Barry, Margart Anne Doody, and Mary E. Doody Jones.

With the Normal School qualification combined with high school completion, a girl could teach at age sixteen. A boy was supposed to be eighteen, although exceptions did occur. Because Gilbrt is two years older than Anne, they are able to become teachers at the same time…Men and women in Anne’s day were on a different pay scale for the same work.  Gilbert could therefore better afford to pay board than Anne…Women thus became attractive to employers as they would take less pay. (431)

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think of Anne’s competitive spirit studying for and then getting into Queen’s?  Were you expecting her to do so well academically?
  2. How did you feel about Matthew’s death? Do you think this was foreshadowed?
  3. Did you get the resolution between Anne and Gilbert that you were hoping for?
  4. What do you think about the plan to sell Green Gables?
  5. Overall, how did you like the book?
  6. Do you have any plans to read the rest of the stories or more books by Montgomery after this?

Briana’s Answers

  1. I think this is one of those tricky areas in books where part of me wants the character to get everything. Of course I want Anne to be first on the pass list. Of course I want her to win all the awards. But part of me also thinks this might be a little too convenient or cliche. Does every character have to be the “most” special? I think Montgomery did some nice tempering here. Anne is very good, but she’s not necessarily a genius, and she does have some serious competition.
  2. I was about ten when I first read the book, but I think I was rather taken by surprise, even with the vague hints about Matthew’s heart and the banks.  If I’d thought more about it, I probably wouldn’t have expected a beloved major character to die off in the first book of a series. However, being ten, I didn’t know anything about the publication history of the novel. Montgomery thought it would be a stand-alone and said herself she wouldn’t have killed him that early if she’d known there would be more books.
  3. I always want a little more Gilbert than there is. 😉 However, I think the resolution really fits Montgomery’s style, and I love that we get to see what a kind person Gilbert is, even to people who aren’t necessarily kind to him.
  4. After Matthew died, I think I could have believed Montgomery would do anything in this novel. Say good-bye to Green Gables, everyone!  Obviously I think the idea is heart-breaking, but it’s completely understandable decision on Marilla’s end.
  5. It’s still one of my favorite books. I’m stunned each time I reread it by just how it is, and how it continue to live up to my expectations.
  6. I’ve read the rest of the series previously, so I’m not going to embark on it right now. I have been reading some of Montgomery’s other books this summer, like Kilmeny of the Orchard and Emily of New Moon.