KILL CLAUDIO! Much Ado About Nothing Continues.

Below is the continuation of Much Ado About Nothing reading all of Act 4.

We see the near marriage of Claudio and Hero, Beatrice and Benedick finally talking and The Watch catching the villains.

The main observation I have is how everybody seems to think the best solution is to simply have people die: Claudio and Hero being the key nominees.

Some Further Character Observations:

Benedick: Respects the words of the women in the play – believes in Beatrice and Hero’s account when most others do not. Switches his allegiance to Beatrice (from the Prince) – tells Beatrice “Come, bid me do anything for thee” and then follows through with it. He also promises to to keep their secret from Don Pedro and Claudio.

Beatrice: Insecure and proud: unwilling to be clear about her feelings even after Benedick has made his position clear. Ruins the romance of the moment with the massively overdramatic and ridiculous “kill Claudio” which might have been the point followed by the useless men rant to redirect the intensity of the moment.

I like the Globe’s adaptation for explaining Beatrice’s outburst here as it puts it in the context of a relatable, desperate rant rather than her meaning every word.

Leonato: Overconfident and domineering – he interrupts and speaks in place of Claudio. Prideful and callous – when Hero has been accused of sleeping around Leonato hopes she’s dead, and if not promises to kill her himself and wishes she wasn’t his biological child so that he would not be associated with her shame.

Margaret: Is she at the wedding, does she witness this as is often the case in plays – if so why doesn’t she speak up as she would know what the Prince and Claudio are referring to. This is more evidence that Margaret is not as innocent as is claimed.

Friar: Intelligent – He realises the truth quickly, devises a plan that fools everybody as intended. which is contrary to how these types of characters are often portrayed.

Much Ado About Nothing Continues – Is Margaret Innocent?

I have continued reading through Much Ado About Nothing which you can watch below. Here we are at act 3 scene 2 to act 3 scene 5. This is where Don John and Borachio put there plan into action and we are first introduced to the Prince’s Watch.

Having read through this and talked about my ideas as I went there are a few other thoughts I’ve had since:

Don John and Benedick

Did Don John intentionally wait for Benedick to leave before slandering Hero to Don Pedro and Claudio? We see later in the Play that Benedick really distrusts Don John and is happy to place all the blame on him without any actual evidence, so perhaps Don John avoided him on purpose. Don John is seemingly unaware of the trick Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato have played on Benedick so would have no reason to think Benedick would be sympathetic to Hero and yet he doesn’t include Benedick in the plan. Alternatively maybe Don John thinks better of Benedick’s sense or fairness than many others seem to. Whatever his reasons Don John had provided further separation between Benedick and Don Pedro and Claudio.

The Power of the Watch

We are introduced to the watch in such a way that we see their ideas, beliefs and approach to their duties so that we can be left in no doubt about their general idiocy. Their leader Dogberry has no intention of them actually catching any criminals but enjoys knowing that they have the power to do so. I think the utter ridiculousness of these men having power highlights how little the women have and how arrogant and elitist the leaders are. They are able to capture villains of the play and unravel their plots without having a clue what is going on. We see later that the women, despite their testimonies and evidence are unable to fight their corner.

We also see that the watch had the power to completely collapse Don John’s scheme when they visited Leonato. As the plan they had overheard involved Hero it would have been the most obvious thing in the world to simply alert Leonato to it without it going public, however it is Dogberry and Verges that visit that visit Leonato, not the watchmen who captured Borachio. This is another case of the male leaders’ arrogance and dismissiveness of those below them resulting in lesser results.

Is Margaret Innocent?

The more I read Much Ado About Nothing, the more interesting I find Margaret as a character. For a waiting lady her presence in a scene is often more notable than Hero’s. She is considered quick witted and beautiful by Beatrice and Benedick respectively and her observations and comments are often very confident and shrewd, In many ways she is presented be very similar to Beatrice but without her position in society. She is part of the plan to trick Beatrice into loving Benedick, and also (supposedly unwittingly) part of the plan to fool Don Pedro and Claudio into shaming Hero. She is seemingly all knowing and always nearby whenevr anything interesting happens.

With all this in mind, this is something that has bugged for a long time. Borachio’s plan involved Margaret, in the middle of the night, leaning out of Hero’s window, wearing Hero’s clothes, hearing herself be called Hero and behaving inappropriately towards Borachio (including talking loudly enough that Don Pedro and Claudio hidden in the orchard could hear them) all while Hero was away. Somehow we are meant to believe that Margaret would do all this naturally as a personal choice without knowing there is some sort of plan afoot. To me it sounds unlikely. The following day we see Margaret acting perfectly naturally around Hero as if nothing has happened. Admittedly the serving classes were held to a different standard of behaviour than the higher classes, but still it doesn’t sit well. It’s possible that the relationship between Borachio and Margaret was such that Margaret would go along with a suggestion of his without requiring and explanation, but to me it’s more plausible that Margaret had some knowledge of the scheme, if not all of it. We know she is a good judge of character and situations so I just can’t make myself beleive that she wouldn’t notice something was up here.

I think there’s further evidence to support this argument in later scenes but I’ll mention that in a future post.

Further Ado About the Characters

Continuing My reading of Much Ado About Nothing. We’re at the part where the guys are tricking Benedick into thinking Beatrice loves him and the women are doing the same to Beatrice about Benedick.

So far my opinions on the characters are as follows:

Beatrice & Benedick: proud and stubbornly stuck in the strong independent roles they’ve set themselves, neither willing to lose face.

Don Pedro: arrogant; believes in his own superiority and that others should follow his lead.

Claudio: fickle; easily lead.

Don John: inept villain; has no plans of his own just wants to cause trouble in any way he can.

Hero: dutiful daughter, potentially resentful of Beatrice’s quick wit.

Much Ado About Nothing

I don’t think I ever appreciated at school how enjoyable it was to discuss a book, a play, a song or any other piece of creativity with others. I find that particular experience much more difficult to come by as an adult. I suppose it’s partly because we have a lot more freedom to pick and choose our entertainment now, consequently it becomes less likely the people in our lives will all wish to discuss the same piece of fiction, especially if its not a current craze. I image that’s where book clubs and fan clubs come in however they aren’t always a practical option.

Anyway, all of this is a long introduction to the fact I am recording myself reading Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with my thoughts and ideas along the way as I have no other outlet for my love of the play.

The Value of Comfort Reading

The reasons for reading are many and varied. For some it’s academic; a need to understand a new idea, for work, school or even just out of curiosity. For others it’s for entertainment, they want to laugh at humorous events, or feel the rush of adrenaline during tense moments. For a lot of people the reason they state is escapism. They get to leave their current life behind and enter another. One which they get to choose, maybe with quests, wizards and dragons. Maybe they visit a new land and culture, or experience a different career and colleagues. Perhaps they participate in a high speed chase, or a battle or an intergalactic war. Whatever floats your boat, there is a book that can take you there.

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I am part of a few Facebook book groups, in general they are open and friendly and as a group non-judgmental. That being said individuals will state their opinions that you may or may not agree with. One I’ve seen a lot of is that there are so many books in the world, why would you ever re-read a book. Another almost unconscious bias, is that some books are more worthy than others, children’s books or young adult books (YA) seem to have a stigma attached to them, almost like you need to apologise for reading or enjoying them. People are allowed their opinions and they are perfectly valid. I however disagree with these two ideas.

Sometimes though, what you need is a comfort reads; when you aren’t looking for a grand epiphany, or a rollercoaster of emotions, instead a sense of soothing familiarity and innocent positivity. There are books that naturally fall into this category for example “cozy mysteries” where everything turns out well for the characters you are invested in such as Miss Marple by Agatha Christie, or Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton (review here). Or easy reading chick-lit such as Wild Designs by Katie Fforde (review here) or Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Café by Millie Johnson. If you enjoy farcical capers there’s P.G Wodehouse (review here) or The fugitive Pigeon by Donald E Westlake (review here).

But these aren’t the type of books I want to focus on. Instead, when I’m stressed or down, homesick or lonely, what I crave is a re-read of a favourite, or books aimed at younger people

Recently on a road trip in my campervan, we started experiencing mechanical difficulties, we needed to carry on, and so we listened to Claudine at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton. One of my childhood favourites I have read many times, even as an adult. Did I learn anything? No. Did I feel any strong emotions? No. But that was the point. I could escape into this world I knew inside out and allow myself to relax into the gentle humour of the book without worrying about twists or turns. I am also very excited about the new Malory towers TV series that’s just starting. From what I’ve seen on social media, it’s the parents who are really interested in this, probably for a similar nostalgic reason.

St CLares

Another week, I was a having a difficult and stressful week at work. I felt the week slipping out of my control. So I downloaded Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. I’d never listened to or read it before, so I didn’t know the exact storyline, but the idealistic nature, charming naivety and cheerful positivity allowed me to relax and filled me with a sense of serenity. I even painted a little watercolour of my favourite scene.

Winnie the Pooh

This week I was due to go on holiday to see my family. I live and work abroad in Kazakhstan where I don’t speak their language and in general they don’t speak mine, consequently it can be quite isolating so I was excited to go home for a bit. Obviously things being as they are at the moment it didn’t happen and so I needed to provide myself with a sense of home and comfort another way. The books that give me greatest sense of home, are The Belgariad by David Eddings.

Belgariad books

This is a light and easy going traditional fantasy series written in the early 1980s. It’s not written in a YA or children’s style, though its innocence and child friendly subject matter make it perfectly suitable for that age group. Unlike the popular heavy and brutal grim dark style that dominates the fantasy genre today, these books promote all the positive attributes of the genre. They books take me back to my childhood, my Dad loves them, and introduced me to them when I was about 12 (in between Harry Potter books). Since then I have read them many times, the characters feel like friends, the cities and towns like holiday destinations, the world itself as familiar to me as any home would be, in fact more consistently so as I’ve moved so often in my adult life.

Belgariad

What I’m trying to say is, reading isn’t a competition; there are no prizes for completing a reading challenge, or reading the Booker Prize nominees, or ploughing through the classics. By all means set goals, and work on self improvement or study if you want. But allow yourself some comfort reading along the way

For more information of where to get hold of audiobooks have a look at my previous post here

Starting My New Teaching Job in Kazakhstan

You may by now realise there is a significant lag between real life and my blogs, however I actually wrote all these at the time they happened, but I’m only now getting around to uploading them. Anyway, below is a continuation of my adventures in Kazakhstan.


My goodness 7:30 feels early when you’re a day behind on sleep plus several hours jet lagged, but never mind, I had to meet N___ at 8:10 so he could show me the way to school and get me through security. A short slightly awkwardly silent 10 minute walk later and we were there. N___explained who I was to the guards so they would let me in before depositing me with the vice principle of something or other.

This was not the woman who had interviewed me or had been emailing me.

She had been made redundant. (was back to being a teacher).

As had the part of the V.P.’s role that included all things connected with international teachers.

That explained the lack of organisation and communication the last 2 months.

Never mind.

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The V.P. explained a lot about who the different V.P.s were and other leadership positions and why the names didn’t match up with the signs on the doors (not that it mattered, I couldn’t read them or remember anyone’s name anyway). She then led me on a tour of the school. It was very tidy and all the pupils looked very smart. Eventually I was deposited at the Physics department. There were 14 people in the physics department, I was the only one fluent in English.

I was made to feel very welcome, offered several different desks in several different workrooms. They all wanted the English speaker in their room.


One of the ladies is called Gulnara.

Gul is a type of flower and nara means camel she informed me.

What a lovely name.

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I was asked by several people at different times how old I was. Is this a cultural difference? Is it a fairly standard question to ask a relative stranger in Kazakhstan? I didn’t mind telling them I am 30. They were surprised. They said they thought I was younger, so that was nice I suppose.

The school ran on WhatsApp, or that’s how it seemed. There were loads of groups for teachers and classes, it seemed I needed to download it if I was to know what was going on. I did download it. I still didn’t know what’s going on.

whatsapp-update-latest-version

I was given a laptop. Everything was in Russian. The password was in Russian using the Russian keyboard. I figured out the English key equivalent so I could login in, then I switched to the English keyboard and figured everything else out by location.

I went to observe a lesson. This particular teacher has very little English but insisted the pupils speak English only. They were researching part of the topic then explaining it to others. Where I come from that’s a classic “f.o.f.o.” lesson. If this was the level expected of me I might be alright.


The only person in the department who spoke reasonable English was M___, she offered to accompany me to lunch in the cafeteria. I went along and spent approximately 80p on a seasoned rice dish that contained carrots and some unidentified meat. It was quite dry but tasty.  We didn’t linger and soon headed back to the department.

I was WhatsApped by the VP in the middle of the day to tell me my contract didn’t start until tomorrow so after meeting everyone else I was free for the rest of the day.

I took that to mean I could go home. So I did.

Damn jet lag.

I was still awake at midnight.

I listened to my audio Russian lessons for half an hour and learnt to count to ten. Go me.

I eventually slept

russian audio

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – A Book Review.

The Name of the wind is the first in a traditional fantasy trilogy called ‘The Kingkiller Chronicle’, it has been on my ‘to read’ pile for a while knowing I’ll love it but not quite ready for the commitment. It’s so intimidatingly large that I just couldn’t bring myself to start it; I have a habit of becoming very antisocial when reading fantasy books and it never seemed quite the right time. To give you some idea of its size, it is approximately 250,000 words long; for context the first book in David Eddings’ Belgariad series (The Pawn of Prophecy) has 104,000, and it’s a similar size to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The second one isn’t much smaller, I bought both the first two when I saw them at a charity shop after hearing good reviews of the series.

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I’m so relieved to find a new traditional fantasy series to lose myself in. If you are at all familiar with the genre then you will feel instantly at home. Horse and carts, bards and lutes, taverns and gods, it has all the pieces for a full fantasy world. I like urban fantasy well enough, J. K. Rowling, Patricia Briggs and Shanna Swendson, to name a few, have managed to bring the fantasy into our own worlds in I way I really enjoy, but often the genre has a angsty or sleek and sexy vibe to it which is very different from the homely, rustic feel of the old fashioned fantasy genre. The novel is suitable for most age groups, there’s no bad language (or so little I’ve forgotten it) no raunchy sex scenes, any violence is implied rather than explicit and the book doesn’t lose anything for it.

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A lot of the story is told as a story with very occasional, intermittent chapters of present time. Qvothe, the protagonist, is retelling his life story to Chronicler, a man who collects stories. There is clearly a plot to the current time events, but very little progress is made in that area, instead most of the action occurs is Qvothe’s recollections. The book is packed with events that keep the book moving along nicely, there are stories within the story which have their own set of characters and resolutions. The writing is beautifully done, and the characters are vivid and colourful. There are multiple, unofficial sections to the book that make convenient brake points and the chapters are thankfully small, as I said before the book is huge. There are times of humour and time of sadness; moments of cleverness and moments of foolishness; flashes of profound greatness and instances of weakness. Overall it is a great, long winding tale with highs and lows and no dull moments.

Despite its size, the book doesn’t really standalone well. There is no overarching plot to the book as a solo book. As I said there are many minor resolutions within the novel, but nothing that wraps the book up with any satisfaction, if fact quite the opposite, it leaves off on a bit of a cliff hanger, or more of a tease really. I’m not sure I like a book to end so openly however I can forgive it as I knew beforehand that it is part of a trilogy; a trilogy I shall most certainly continue to read. The slightly troublesome thing is that the third book is yet to be released, Rothfuss seems to be taking his time with it. However rumour has it that a Movie, TV series and videogame are in the works so at least I’ll be able to immerse myself in the world a bit more. (Kingkiller Chronicle movie news).

trilogy

Here’s a couple of excerpts from the book that show a little of the writing style and world created.

‘Dax set himself alight while attempting a spectacular bit of fire breathing and had to be doused. All he suffered was a bit of singed beard and a slightly bruised pride. He recovered quickly under Ben’s tender ministrations, a mug of mead, and a reminder that not everyone was cut out to have eyebrows.’

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‘”I’m giving you the opportunity to say something,” Kvothe said. “Something along the lines of, “That can’t be!”, or “There’s no such thing as dragons…””

Chronicler wiped the nib of his pen clean, “it’s not really my place to comment on the story.” he said placidly. “If you say you saw a dragon…” He shrugged.

Kvothe gave him a profoundly disappointed look. “This from the author of The Mating Habits of the Common Dracus? This from Devan Lochees, the great debunker?”

“This from Devan Lochees who agreed not to interrupt or change a single word of the story he is recording.” Chronicler lay his pen down and massaged his hand. “Because those were the only conditions under which he could get access to a story he very much desired.”

Kvothe gave him a level look. “Have you ever heard the expression white mutiny?”

“I have,” Chronicler said with a thin smile.

“I could say it, Reshi,” Bast said brightly, “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

Kvothe looked back and forth between them, then sighed. “There are few things as nauseating as pure obedience,” he said. “both of you would do well to remember that.”’

 

The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells – A Book Review.

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I am falling behind in my 1 book a week aim which is a shame. I seem to spend a lot of my days doing jigsaw puzzles, and then as I feel going outside once in a while is healthy, and interacting with real people is necessary, I seem to have used up all my anti-social time. It took far longer than it should have for me to come up with the idea of listening to audiobooks while puzzling. I thoroughly recommend it.

I have managed to read a few books lately though I haven’t posted any reviews in a while as I haven’t had much to say about them. However having recently finished listening to The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and finding it very different to my expectations, I have decided to recommence the reviews. I have had the audiobook version of The Invisible Man for several years, but haven’t got around to listening to it; the avid readers among you will no doubt understand the nature of a ‘To Be Read’ pile, it works the same with audio books, I seem to gather them faster than I listen to them.

How Out of Control Is Your TBR Pile

The Invisible Man (1897) is one of the most famous sci-fi novels ever. It was written by H. G. wells and has innumerable films, TV series and comics based on it. Wells is also known for The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau which also have various media adaptations. Before listening to the book, this was pretty much all I knew. I had heard of the invisible man in the world of comics and superheroes and I vaguely remembered a film adaptation of The Time Machine that was a fun family friendly adventure. Consequently I was expecting something along those lines with this book; some of you will know that’s not what I got.

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I listened to a free audiobook version of The Invisible Man downloaded from Librivox (link here). The narrator (Alex Foster) was fine; I have no criticisms. I have experienced audiobooks that were hugely enhanced by a great reading, this wasn’t one of them, but on the other hand he certainly didn’t detract from the story, he was perfectly listenable, which isn’t always the case with the volunteer lead readings you find on Librivox.

I’m very well behaved when reading or watching sci-fi with respect to the science. I am willing to suspend logic and reality to an extent to allow the authors to create the new world, and in fact I enjoy the logic of the world they create and generally will allow it to stand without question. After all if science could actually do it, it would be reality not sci-fi. I reviewed Replay by Ken Grimwood and touched on The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North last year (link here). In Replay the science isn’t really attempted, and that’s OK, but I was highly impressed with the science element in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August; I’ve yet to come across a better developed sci-fi world. In The Invisible Man Wells has also done a great job of explaining his scientific phenomena with a  reasonable explanation of how to make something invisible, in fact this was one of the most satisfying parts of the book from my point of view.

harry august

Now to the story itself. As I alluded to earlier, The Inivisible Man is not a light fun adventure. It’s not even a slightly sinister or dark superhero book. It’s just dark and angry. The main character, the invisible man himself is called Griffin. When we are introduce to him he seems a rather harsh and grumpy however with my preconceptions I felt there would be reasonable justification for this later on. However as the book proceeds you are lead to like Griffin less and less. I clung on to the hope of a sort of redeemable anti-hero for a while but gave it up on that idea about half way through. Griffin is simply selfish, angry and brutish. You may think that is very well done by the author to build such a dislike about a character particularly when you are predisposed to like them, it must have taken very strong writing to create those emotions and I do agree to a certain extent. Griffin is a well developed character.

The main problem I had with the book is that non of the other characters in the book are particularly developed at all. There isn’t really anyone to like or root for. There is a tramp that is controlled by Griffin for a while. You would think you would feel some sort of support, or liking for the tramp but at most I felt a mild kind of pity. The tramp didn’t really have enough of a sense of character to really be noticed. Later Griffin holes up with an old acquaintance, Kemp, who when he realises Griffin’s brutality and unrelenting drive for complete domination, betrays Griffin to the Police. Griffin being angry at being betrayed and now hunted turns his anger on Kemp with the intent to kill. Even Kemp is hard to care about. I did support him in the sense that your enemy’s enemy is your friend, and Griffin was definitely an enemy by then, but there was very little emotion invoked on behalf of Kemp himself.

Overall I can’t say I liked the book, the writing style with a third person narrator I quite liked, the bits of science used to describe various phenomena were interesting, but without a likable, relate-able or redeemable character in sight it just felt like spending several hours in the company of and angry psychopath.

 

Yes Man by Danny Wallace – A Book Review

One Little Word Can Change Your Life!

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I enjoyed last week’s book Back Story by David Mitchell (review here) so much that I wanted to stay in a similar genre for my evening walks. I chose Yes Man by Danny Wallace, I’d had the audiobook for a while but hadn’t listened to it, then the other day I came across the book in a charity shop and had to buy it. Danny Wallace is a comedian/presenter/author that sometimes crops up on TV; less well known than David Mitchell, but still I was aware of him. And now I could switch back and forth between reading and listening as convenience dictated. What happened in practice was I started the book, was enjoying it so I switched to the audiobook for my walks and enjoyed it even more. It wasn’t until I began to write this review I realised the audiobook was an abridged version and that I’d missed all sorts in the actual book. I will have to read the whole thing another time. So this is in essence a review of the audiobook abridged version of Yes Man (audible link here).

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The book is an elaboration of his diary over the better part of a year as he undertakes the role of Yes Man. After a chance encounter on a bus when someone inadvertently tells him to say yes more, Danny Wallace embarks on an adventure to not only say yes more, but to say yes to everything. This is hugely entertaining, the strange encounters, odd experiences and unexpected successes are both ridiculous and believable.

This book has something for everyone, there’s a challenge, a nemesis, UFO groups, Maitreya, money, a love story and an unexpected nursing degree to name a few highlights. Continue reading