(This review is for the talking book version of this play on compact disc by the "Complete Arkangel Shakespeare" and published by BBC Audiobooks America.)
"Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
I have tremor cordis on me,--my heart dances;
But not for joy,--not joy.--This entertainment
May a free face put on; derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
And well become the agent: `t may, I grant:
But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are; and making practis'd smiles,
As in a looking glass; and then to sigh, as `twere
The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows."
The above is said as an aside by the King of Sicilia as he observes his Queen with his good friend (who he has known since childhood), the King of Bohemia. This is the occurrence that sparks the King of Sicilia's jealousy and forms the basis of this play (written circa 1611) by William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616).
(Note that this play is traditionally classified as a comedy but is more accurately known as a tragicomedy or romance.)
Having this play recorded on compact disc is a treat. This play (of five acts or fifteen scenes) is presented as uncut, fully dramatized, and accompanied by original music. This recording aids in comprehension by bringing the play to life using the voices of distinguished actors.
Included with the compact disc are liner notes that include among other things a complete cast list and a synopsis of each scene. What I did was before each scene, I paused the recording, read a particular scene's synopsis, and then listened to that scene. Doing it this way resulted in (for me anyway) complete comprehension of this play, something not easily obtainable when you simply read the play.
With respect to the play itself, it should be remembered that in most cases, the characters are not realistic. Jealousy appears with little motivation; characters perform actions that are symbolic rather than believable in terms of everyday life; common sense seems frequently to be lacking. (In fact, this is why many 17TH and 18TH century critics dismissed this play as absurd and totally lacking in reason.)
However, it seems to me Shakespeare deliberately made most of these characters symbolic rather than realistic. The themes of the play (evil, repentance, and reconciliation) are of such a universal scope that they must be represented clearly in its characters.
This play is famous for the stage direction that Shakespeare gives in Act 3 Scene 3: "Exit, pursued by a bear."
Finally, for those playing this compact disc on their computer compact disc player, beware that a "cookie" of 0.1 KB size is stored on your computer's hard drive. A "cookie" is just a small piece of text and is NOT a virus. It can do no harm but for those that don't want it, it can be easily erased.
In conclusion, this compact disc brings this tragicomic or romance play to life aiding in its comprehension and thus enjoyment!!
(2005; 2 hr, 50 min; 3 compact discs, 15 tracks)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>