On the social activism front, there's definitely great virtue in picking one's battles. [Geek out alert] King Lear - probably my favorite play – is particularly good for revisiting over the years because of the age and generation dynamics. When I read it in high school, with a great teacher, I got it, and fell in love with it, but had little sympathy for Lear, because his mistakes seemed so glaring. (As several directors have noted, 1.1 in Lear is a tough sell if you're going for realism for this reason.) I also found Cordelia, Edmund, Kent and the Fool far more interesting. As I've grown older, Lear has still not become my favorite character, but I've become more forgiving of his flaws. I do think it works well that Lear is old – Shakespeare increases the odds that he'll get a really good veteran actor for a demanding role. However, Gielgud first played Lear at 26! And one of his best Lears was when he was a mere 36. But generally, older is better. (Oddly enough, I've seen two knighted Ians naked as Lear on stage.) I've taught the play twice, and Hamlet twice. "Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not "seems."" from Hamlet actually really resonates with teens. So does his central dilemma of being forced to play a role he'd rather not, which may be the greatest appeal of the play for people of all ages. (He's also quite the smartass.) Lear takes a little more work with the younger crowd, but I've seen students get into the fools versus knaves dynamic, and relate to the Edmund-Edgar rivalry. I would have liked to have taught one of the comedies at some point, though... (Oh well, got that fix elsewhere.) But great art can spur limitless scrutiny, reflection, and love and is something to be revisited over the course of a lifetime (some works more than others). Also, too. (I'm revisiting some themes from the first one, actually...)
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