The Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde, 5/5
Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite authors and I have read (and re-read) his major works, such as the entrancing novella, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the impossibly witty play The Importance of Being Earnest. However, there were a few of his short stories, plays and poems that I’d never encountered before, so this collection was a delightful mix of old favourites and new discoveries.
Why I read it: this collection was a birthday present from my dad.
This play has a killer plot: when her husband, Jason, dumps her and upgrades to a more royal model, Medea, [formerly] devoted wife and mother of two sons (unnamed in the play, I call them “Collateral” and “Damage”), manages to take the moral high ground, despite being an accomplished murderess, and plots a terrible vengeance. As you can imagine, tensions run high and there is a lot of deliciously vitriolic dialogue. Warner’s translation is straightforward and unflowery, resulting in an entertaining read that I would love to see performed some day.
[Why I read it: found it at the thrift store and thought it would fit in well with my plan to read more classics.]
Armed only with the ambiguous aid of some humourless footnotes and crusty endnotes, I could sense a veritable jet stream of jokes, puns and witticism blowing right over my head. How I missed my customary “cheater’s edition,” with its modern English translations on each facing page! Unfortunately for me and my limited understanding of Elizabethan English, the play is more dialogue- than plot-driven and, though the premise is cute and there were many funny moments, I often found myself quoting one movie-watcher’s insightful comment on A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999): “I can’t understand a damn word they are saying…”
[Why I read it: One day last week, I had an hour to kill while waiting for a ride. Imagine my horror when I looked in my backpack and found myself bookless (French homework obviously doesn’t count). Like a literary knight in shining armour, my sister produced her personal copy of Love’s Labour’s Lost, thus banishing my unhappy state.]
This lighthearted and unrelentingly witty play is similar to As You Like It and A Midsummer’s Night Dream, but is my favourite of the three. While I find it distracting to see the modern version of the text side-by-side with the original, in this case, it really helped me to understand a lot of humour that would otherwise have gone right over my head.
[Why I read it: part of the aforementioned long-term mission to read everything by Shakespeare. I picked this copy up from the thriftstore.]
I have yet to develop much of a taste for plays, finding that they typically (though of course, not always) have shallow plots and lack character development. This work is no exception, but I enjoyed the 1999 movie version, starring Jeremy Northam, so much that it was still a fun read.