Showing posts with label Richard Appignanesi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard Appignanesi. Show all posts

Saturday, February 4, 2017

As You Like it by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi, Chie Kutsuwada

Rating: WARTY!

So when we're reviewing a graphic novel adaptation of a Shakespeare play, do we review the original work? This isn't the original work. It's an adaptation by Richard Appignanesi. So do we review the adaptive work? Well it's not original, so we can't ignore that from which it was adapted. So what about the graphic portion of it by Chie Kutsuwada? That's the only part of this work that's truly original, but even so it's still derived from Shakespeare's. Aye, there's the rub!

So, in fact, we have to review all three simultaneously. All of Shakespeare's a stage, and all the writers and artists merely players. They have their successes and their failures, and each play in its time fulfills many roles. There are seven stages. First there is the writing of the original, then comes the acting of it on the stage by the original players, then the adaptation by many other actors. Next the catch-phrases enter the lingo, and works of art take the field depicting renowned scenes form the play. Movies then come along in their various forms necessarily shedding much of the original work in order to conform to a silver screen chronology. After this come the novelizations, and the death of the play wrought by crappy YA adaptations which pay little heed to the original and, let's face it, less heed to intelligent story telling.

I have to say if I were reviewing only the Shakespeare portion of this particular story, I would have to rate it warty. The reason for this is the same reason I've rated so many YA novels negatively, because of instadore. Some reviewers call it insta-love, but the fact is that it's not love. Love is a lot more rational than writers give it credit, even as it might seem completely out of control, but what was depicted here not once, but four times, was insanity.

The truth is that what's irrational is this falling in lust (which I call instadore) and stupidly mistaking it for love. Instadore is shallow and far to fast to be meaningful. You'd have to be a moron to trust that. It doesn't mean it cannot grow into love, but the overwhelming chances are that it won't, yet endless YA authors insist otherwise. Fie on them, say I! And fie on Shakespeare's crappy, meandering, confused, and ultimately meaningless of usurpers and exiles and forest foolishness.

What I did like here was the artwork and the adaptation. Both were well done. The art in particular, which was gray-scale line drawings, was very well done, integrated with the text well, and went beyond mere panels depicting the text. It truly was worth reading. If you want to get a handle on Shakespeare and not get enmeshed in his absurd endless punning, and his clueless idea of love, his thoroughly un-pc attitude, and his boorish male characters pandering to the lowest common denominator in his audience, then starting with something like this isn't at all a bad idea. I recommend this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Merchant of Venice (Manga Shakespeare) Richard Appignanesi, Faye Yong

Rating: WORTHY!

I found this at my most excellent library just sitting on the shelf begging to be read. It was adapted from Shakespeare's original and illustrated in an odd elfin-style by Faye Yong. The story was adapted (this typically means trimmed) to fit this format by Richard Appignanesi.

The story was eminently readable and for the most part delightfully illustrated, although the occasional image here and there seemed a bit off to me. The drawings are black and white line-drawings with some grayscale shading, and with a handful of color introductory pages at the beginning, to identify the cast.

The story begins with Bassanio, a Venetian noble, trying to marry Portia, but he has no money. Most of it he spent on wine, women, and song. The rest he just wasted. I'm kidding. Or maybe not: he did squander it one way or another, and now finds that he must get his hands on 3,000 ducats to woo his chosen maiden. Ducats were so named because they were the Duke's coinage and this courting price was something like 80,000 dollars in today's currency (assuming my math is any good, but be warned that it usually isn't). Those Belmont stakes are pretty high you know!

Antonio, the Merchant of Venice, agrees to bail his friend out (yet again), but all his money is tied-up in his shipping ventures. He does agree to underwrite him if he can find a money-lender who will take on the debt. Thus we meet Shylock, a Jewish "banker" who agrees as long as Antonio, who liked Jews about as much as Heinrich Himmler did, guarantees the loan and agrees, famously, to allow Shylock to take a pound of Antonio's flesh if Bassanio defaults.

Over in Portia territory, Bassanio has to contend with Portia's father's will, whereby a suitor must chose from one of three caskets labeled with a taunt rather than the contents. One casket is gold, one silver, and the third lead. Only one of them, however, contains any treasure, in the form of an image of Portia. If the prospective husband picks that one, he wins her hand. Those Venetians, I swear to gold!

Italian loving, had me a blast!
Cruising canals, happened so fast!
I met a girl crazed as can be!
She had me chose, from caskets three!
Venetian days drifting away to, oh oh those Venetian ni-ights!
Tell me more, tell me more, what was top of the picks?
Tell me more, tell me more, like did you get the pix?

The gold casket is labeled: He who chooses me will get what many men want. The silver is inscribed: He who chooses me will get what he deserves, and the lead one says: He who chooses me must give and risk all he has. The Prince of Morocco chooses the gold casket and fails ("All that glisters is not gold"). The Prince of Arragon tries his luck with the silver and discovers that only felt the shadow of joy - Joy, not Portia! Both men are sworn never to reveal their choice or the casket's content. Bassanio of course selects the lead, and thereby wins Portia's hand.

So far so good, but Antonio's ships all founder, and his is now in default to Shylock, who is now particularly pissed-off with Christians after his daughter Jessica ran off with one (Lorenzo), ditching her faith, but replacing it with a boat-load of Shylock's treasure. This turns out to be totally Tubal-er when a messenger arrives with no news of Jessica's whereabouts, like for shore! The vengeful Shylock brings Antonio up before the magistrates in the court of the Duke of Venice.

Meanwhile, Portia and Bassanio having completed their nuptials, but not their wedding night, immediately take-off to Venice to bail Antonio out with Portia's money. They travel with Gratiano and Nerissa, who is Portia's handmaid. Despite Bassanio's very generous offer of twice what Shylock is owed, the latter insists upon his pound of flesh, and all seems lost. Bellario, unable to attend the case himself, appears to have sent a representative named Balthazar. Of course, in true Shakespearean tradition, it's a woman in disguise: in this case, Portia herself. Her assistant is also a woman in disguise: Nerissa, evidently representing that prestigious law firm, Trans, Vestite and Nailem.

Portia begs Shylock to show mercy, but hell-bent on revenge for all the abuse he has suffered over the years, some of which came from Antonio, he flatly refuses. As he is about to scythe his flesh from Antonio, Portia points out that his contract specifies only flesh - not blood. he must, she advises him, not spill a single drop of Antonio's blood, not take a one sliver more than his pound, lest he himself breaches the contract and loses everything, including his life.

Shylock belatedly realizes that he should have accepted Bassanio's generous offer, but now that he seeks to resort to this, he finds he has lost there, too, but Portia points out that he's already on record as rejecting it. Worse than this, as a foreigner (read Jew), who has sought to take the life of a Venetian citizen, he now must forfeit everything, although the Duke does pardon him from his death sentence, and even allows him to retain half his fortune as long as he converts to Christianity - a fate worse than death, it would seem, from Shylock's perspective.

Bassanio gets himself into trouble by rewarding the "lawyer" with a ring he had promised Portia she had given him which he in turn vowed he would never give up. Nerissa achieves the same sort of gift from Gratiano. These guys are morons. Their wives refuse them any bed time until they recover the rings!