I really enjoyed Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies, and in my review I really hoped they would would make a second book and include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. Imagine how happy I was when I found out they did just that, and also included Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew for good measure. Pretty happy.
The selection here is pretty fantastic. I’ve always found The Tempest to be a pretty fascinating story that doesn’t fit quite so neatly into the comedy/tragedy genres, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it show up here. The other plays are more classic comedies, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream being one of my favorites (I used it for a video presentation in college that I had a ton of fun with).
The Comedies is extremely similar to The Tragedies when it comes to structure. Each play begins with a single-page introduction that gives you a good amount of context, and helps prepare you for the events that follow. They also all have cast pages so you can quickly reference who is who. I found myself flipping back to those from time to time when as we picked up and dropped characters throughout the narrative.
The plays are also abridged, sadly. Again, this is a trade off. If they were unabridged, we’d probably only get two instead of four in a book. The author’s do a good job of filling in all the blanks between the featured scenes, so you don’t miss a lot. This also let’s the authors focus on the “big” scenes, rather than rendering everything. Think about it as a “best of”, which good write-ups to give you all the plot points in between.
In terms of presentation, The Comedies is just as strong as The Tragedies. The sets are well built and photographed, and include some non-LEGO® elements for different kinds of texture. One thing I didn’t care for was that they occasionally used photographic backdrops, which looked a little out-of-place.
What I really like about these books is that it takes some of the intimidation factor our of reading Shakespeare. Growing up, I always thought that reading Shakespeare something only really smart people did, and that the language was almost unintelligible for a normal person. The sad thing is, I think that’s a pretty common belief.
That’s a shame because these are stories that form a major part of the canon of western literary culture, and they’re stolen from liberally by pretty much everyone. Having a sense of where these characters and situations come from gives you a lot better understanding of the stories you’re enjoying, and that’s always been important to me.
Brick Shakespeare removes a pretty big barrier to entry. It makes Shakespeare less intimidating, and that’s a good thing in my mind.