Friday, October 28, 2011

Audiobook Review: Shakespeare: The Essential Tragedies vol. 2

Shakespeare: The Essential Tragedies, Volume Two by Shakespeare narrated by full cast, 2011. Time: 10 hrs. 45 mins. (11 discs). Published by  BBC Audiobooks. Source: for review from Audiobook Jukebox/Publisher.
These brilliant radio dramatizations of four of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies bustle with thwarted romance, sudden violence, and intense passions. Includes Macbeth (2 CDs); Othello (3 CDs); Antony and Cleopatra (3 CDs); and Coriolanus (3 CDs).
First Sentence:
Macbeth-
First Witch: When shall we three meet again?
Antony and Cleopatra-
Philo: Nay, but this dotage of our general's O'erflows the measure.
I find it hard at times to put down my thoughts when it comes to plays, especially those of Shakespeare, so I hope ya'll will enjoy my thoughts on four of his tragedies and narration of the audiobooks. I'll also try to keep it short...ish.

Story:
Macbeth:
I've always liked the opening for Macbeth, with the three witches meeting with Macbeth, and how it sets a slightly grim setting for the story plus they were absolutely maniacal in the audiobook.

While I may not be the biggest fan of Shakespeare's work, I can appreciate that he did have a way with words and building tension in his books, like in Macbeth. I really enjoyed how everything that happened in the book can pretty much be boiled down to one man (Macbeth) putting all his stock on the prophecies of the witches, because without their encounter must likely nothing would have happened.

My favorite part of Macbeth is definitely any scene featuring the three witches, the reason their scenes were the best is partly because they are the catalyse to the plot line and are what set Macbeth down the path of bloodshed and to becoming king of Scotland.
     The one thing I don't much care for in Macbeth would have to be how weak Macbeth's character is, he frankly comes across as a pushover with little to no backbone. So while he is not necessarily the the most interesting character in which to read about, I thought that the rest of the cast completely stole the story.

Othello:
While this one is not a favorite and did not really leave me with feelings of like or dislike, I thought it was good but nothing really attention grabbing. It was good, but not all to impressive of a story.

While I had trouble getting into this one, I will say this, Shakespeare sure knows how to write a death scene. The death of Desdemona was the absolute best part of the whole thing, and the way the actress read it kinda gave me the chills while listening to it. If your considering of reading/listening to Othello, I would recommend it for that scene alone.
     The reason I could not really get into Othello was that the characters drove me crazy, and that they seemed pretty forgettable. By the time I finished it I could no more tell you a little thing about any of them, or even their motivation for the things that they do.

Antony and Cleopatra:
This one was actually surprising, why, because I liked it a lot. Maybe not as much as Macbeth & Hamlet, but enough that I would definitely re-listen to Antony and Cleopatra.

My first thought, before listening to it, was that it was going to be along the lines of Romeo and Juliet and a waste of my time, but the story had so much more to offer and the cast did an excellent job.   

The best part in Antony and Clepatra, oddly enough, are the death scenes and those leading up to them. It was partially the readers that made Cleopatra's death so interesting because the lady that played Cleopatra did a crazy good job, and made you actually feel her anguish leading up to win she killed herself. 
  The one thing I didn't like about Antony and Cleopatra was that Shakespeare basicaly killed antony and Cleopatra after the same fashion as R&J. Antony thought that Cleopatra was dead, so he asked his aid to kill (he wouldn't and instead killed himself) then he mortally wounds himself and dies in her arms. Then, a little later Cleopatra kills herself, see what I mean it's pretty much the same thing that happened in R&J.

Coriolanus: This was probably my least favorite of the tragedies...well after R&J that is (could not stand that one, but that will have to wait for another time).

The main reason I didn't like Coriolanus is that the characters were so vapid and shallow, and there didn't really seem to be any point (that I could see) to the story. I can sum up the story in just a few words, love betrayal, power struggle, and blood vendetta.

So, Coriolanus barely held my attention, which is why I don't have much to say about it.

Narration:
The Essential Tragedies was my first foray into a full cast audiobook, and I must say that it blew me away.
while I was a bit surprised that it was a full cast narration, I found myself really enjoying it because he cast did a phenomenal job. I loved the passion that you could feel during certain scenes, the real dramatic ones, and for once was actually pulled into Shakespeare's work (where as usually I have to force myself to finish one of his plays).

Hands down, the thing that makes The Essential Tragedies vol 2 so good is the readers. They are what makes this an addictive listen, and for them alone I recommend giving this audiobook a shot even if you're not a fan of Shakespeare.
The only thing I did not care for in this audiobook set was the music that accompanied it. at times at found it to be distracting and a little loud in places. The worst music would have to have been in Othello, it was a little too jazzy for the setting of the book.

Final Verdict: The full cast audiobook of Shakespeare's: The Essential Tragedies is the only way Shakespeare should be done. It was brilliant and made Shakespeare enjoyable.

Shakespeare: The Essential Tragedies vol 2 earns 4 out of 5 pineapples.

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