Monday, June 20, 2016

Top Ten Favorite 16th Century Releases

I absolutely love creating top ten lists for the weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday, hosted over at the Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic, "top ten favorite 2016 releases so far this year," made me gulp.  A quick consultation of my Goodreads stats confirmed that I have not actually read any new releases from this year.  New releases are always difficult to get from the library, and I simply cannot afford to dish out the money for new hardcovers, lovely though they are!  So instead of listing my top ten favorite releases from 2016, I have decided to stray from the topic and list my favorite reads which were hot off the printing press in the 16th century!

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

I taught this play to three classes of tenth graders this year, and I think most of them enjoyed it despite being a little scared of Shakespeare when we first started reading.

Edward II by Christopher Marlowe

This play is a-mazing!  Despite his good intentions, Edward II of England is a weak king.  His wife Isabella and her treacherous lover Mortimer plot to overthrow him and get rid of Edward's boyfriend Gaveston, who is what thou might call a gold-digger.  

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser

Admittedly I have only read small excerpts, but Spenser's genius blew me away!  I intend to return to this and read the entire book, someday...

Utopia by Sir Thomas More

More's quixotic and highly influential description of Utopia, a civilization more egalitarian than those of early modern Europe.

Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney

I recently reviewed this collection of romantic sonnets and really enjoyed them!

Essays by Montaigne

My copy of Michel de Montaigne's essays is more than a thousand pages; I'm not sure if I will ever finish every essay!  I have read quite a few in English and struggled through a few in Middle French.  I love his essays on libraries and reading, and his opinions seem incredibly "modern" for the time that he wrote.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

I have a hard time picking a favorite Shakespeare play, but Much Ado is my favorite comedy.  It has been the source material for endless romantic comedies since.  I particularly like the character of Beatrice.

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Another great Marlowe play, about an overambitious scholar who seeks to conquer death and encounters devils.  I have also read Queen Dido, but did not care for it as much.

Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare

In my junior year of college, I chose Titus as the text for my final paper for a class on Shakespeare and Ecofeminism.  (Yep, there is a class about that and it was awesome!)  I have a fascination with Titus, and think it is an excellent and intriguing play once you get past the knee-jerk reaction of "gross, people unknowingly eating their own children!"  For a long time scholars were so mortified by the gore of Titus that they tried to argue that Shakespeare did not even write the play.  However, it is one of my favorites and rich in deeper meaning and symbolism!  I definitely recommend everyone give it a shot.

Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum and other poems by Aemilia Lanyer

While she is probably best-known as a possible candidate for Shakespeare's Dark Lady in his sonnets, Lanyer was an excellent poet in her own right.  In a time when misogyny was rampant in literature and women almost entirely unrepresented, Lanyer made a strong case for women as poets and for women as, you know, human beings.  She was a feminist long before the word was ever used, and I particularly like her poem "The Description of Cookham."

Making this list was fun, but aggravating because I kept thinking of a favorite writer only to realize that they wrote in the seventeenth century!  Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by.  Feel free to leave me the link to your Top Ten Tuesday post when you comment and I will check out your list as well!


Anonymous said...

Wow! What a unique list this week. I really need to read more classics.

Kate Midnight Book Girl said...

Haha, a very clever spin on the theme! I'm a fan of Shakespeare, and Much Ado About Nothing is one of my all time favorites! ;)

My Top Ten Tuesday

cleopatra said...

Great list! Much more interesting than current releases. ;-) You have a few that I've read, a couple I'd like to read and have even introduced me to a few unknowns. I'm still very slowly making my way through The Faerie Queene. It's awesome but so time consuming. I doubt I'll finish it this year but we'll see. Utopia is one of my favourites and Julius Caesar. You just can't bet the Bard!

Kat said...

@Kate-- I love Much Ado! I have actually read several reviews of it lately that made me want to do a re-read. Thanks for stopping by!

@Cleopatra-- I admit that I am not really one for current releases, I prefer the tried and true books or at least things a few years older. I really admire you and the others brave enough to read all of The Faerie Queene--it is brilliant, but truly intimidating and yes, time-consuming! One day I will give it a go, but for now I enjoy reading ya'll's reviews and updates. :) This summer I am going to do Middlemarch and hopefully the complete Canterbury Tales for my longer reads--I hope!

It's true you can't beat Shakespeare! Few even compare, though I do like Marlowe.

Anonymous said...

I love your take on this week! I saw Edward II at the National Theatre a couple of years ago - at public rehearsal stage, which was both fabulous (because it was such a mess) and terrible (because it was such a mess). You could see how the staging was going to work, but we got an unintentional side order of hilarity due to various pratfalls and wardrobe defects. Great play though :)

Kat said...

@imyril-- Wow, I want to see a public rehearsal of a play, it sounds like so much fun! I have seen the Derek Jarman film version of Edward II, but never live yet. It is a great play!

Amanda Marie said...

What a fun take on the topic! I love Utopia and Much Ado About Nothing and am so glad they made your list. You do have some listed that I haven't heard of.
I will definitely be looking into Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. I wonder if any of the poems were written in Latin because that would just make me happy.
Thanks for sharing!

Kat said...

@Amanda-- Despite the title, none of Lanyer's poems that I have read are written in Latin. But the poems are great just the same. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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