Reading Shakespeare should give you the same pleasure as seeing Shakespeare performed. This book series produces editions of the plays that give readers the same thrilling experience that theatergoers enjoy. We prepare you for each passage of each play by explaining unfamiliar terms and references in advance, and we present historical and cultural context to keep you oriented as you proceed. Just like a tour guide.

In the same way that performances of Shakespeare edit the script to deliver a sharpened experience, Two-Hour Tours edits out minor portions not central to the action, and comprehensively explains everything we present.

While side-by-side and line-by-line modern translations of Shakespeare are useful as resources, they can raise as many questions about Shakespeare’s original text as they answer. Two-Hour Tours is designed to give you the tools to follow Shakespeare’s writing, while providing a truly pleasurable reading experience.

So, if you want to encounter, or re-encounter, the central writer of the English language in a manner that’s pleasant, absorbing, and illuminating, this tour is for you. And for a list of our other titles, please click on the author page.

The first of these two tours is of Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare pairs two lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, who are absolute equals. Neither would ever consent to be guided by anyone but themselves. And Shakespeare adds another problem: They each hate the idea of marriage and are unimpressed with the opposite sex in general.

The story is set in Sicily where, from the start, the audience is treated to an exchange of wit between the orphaned and independent-minded Beatrice and the returning soldier Benedick. While we can see their underlying affection for each other, they cannot, and ultimately their friends construct an elaborate plot to persuade each of them that the other has privately confessed feelings of love. It is only then that they are each able to disarm themselves and engage in a successful courtship.

Shakespeare contrasts this endlessly voluble and worldly-wise couple with Claudio and Hero, a naïve pair of lovers who, far from exchanging barbs of wit, are almost completely tongue-tied. Claudio’s inability to woo Hero on his own behalf leads to an initial bout of unfounded jealousy, while the scheming of the villainous Don John and his henchmen leads to another.

By the play’s close, Beatrice’s has let down her guard and opened her heart, Benedick’s love and loyalty have been tested and found true, Hero’s reputation has been restored, Claudio, who falsely slandered Hero, has been chastened, and the audience has been thoroughly entertained.

The second of the two tours is of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a magical fantasy that seems to float across the stage. Underneath this glimmering surface, however, is a story constructed of a surprising combination of ideas, and its action takes place at the intersection of some remarkably different worlds.

The play features two well-known mythological figures who find themselves cast as the ruler and first lady of Athens; two magic-imbued, feuding fairy monarchs; one changeling child imported from spice-laden India; four youthful Athenian lovers; and a group of working-class human craftsman, one of whom becomes part donkey.

The main plot concerns the four young Athenians who have formed not a love triangle, but a love-and-hate rectangle. The story takes them just outside their native Athens to an enchanted wood that is ruled by the feuding fairy monarchs. Oberon, in revenge against Titania for a perceived slight, has directed his henchman Puck to charm Titania with a love potion. Puck, however, makes one mistake after another with the potion, altering the affections of the Athenians in turn, and offering them the chance to experience each other’s emotional conditions; the spurned becoming the pursued, the stalker becoming the stalked. They emerge from the wood exhausted but also educated.

While most of his plays follow the storylines of existing tales, Shakespeare goes in for a mashup in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Its Pyramus and Thisbe story, a play-within-a-play, comes from Ovid. The mythological demigods Theseus and Hippolyta are originally from Plutarch, though they also make an appearance in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. The fairy monarchs, Oberon and Titania, are pure products of Shakespeare’s imagination, but Oberon’s henchman, Puck, also called Robin Goodfellow, is a creature taken straight from English folklore and well known to every Elizabethan from childhood. Meanwhile, Bottom and his “mechanicals,” or common tradesmen, are torn straight from rural Elizabethan England with no apologies. The tale of Bottom becoming an ass, meanwhile, may come from an incident in Apuleius’ A Golden Ass, a Latin romance dating to the second century A.D. that had been translated into English in Shakespeare’s time. Many of the pleasures of the play arise from watching these creatures from different eras interact.

You can buy the e-book version at this link, and you can buy the paperback version at this link.



The e-book version is $3.00, and the paperback version is $10.00

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