Shakespeare or Carroll?






I would pick Shakespeare. *insert gasps and awkward silence from audience*

Last week, I let myself finally read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It was in my giant, red book with both of Alice’s stories and tons of annotations to go along with it. I would have thought this worth my time.

But I was disappointed.

I hate saying that, because I have friends who love Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece. But unless you want to read what appears to be utter nonsense, this isn’t your piece of toast. The crazy we are met with in the Disney movies are basically right out of the book.

What took me by surprise, I think, was not everyone talking about purely insane things. That I already knew. What I wasn’t prepared for was the strange transitions Carroll threw in. I suppose this a comparison to how we move around in dreams. First, we are with Alice in the hall with the doors. She keeps growing bigger and smaller in an attempt to get the key or to get into the door the key is for. When this leads to ill success, Alice becomes small enough to swim in her own tears. She spots a mouse swimming too and ends up accidentally insulting him many times with talking about cats and dogs. But then there are other animals in the water and they then swim to shore on a nice beach – wait, what?

Where did the hallway go? What happened to the doors? How did she get out? I notice now that the Disney cartoon did kids a favor and made a somewhat logically reason for her escape. She is so tiny that she fits into the keyhole and is gone. Not so with the book. One moment you’re here, and then another you’re there. And you can’t quite fix the exact moment that a bridge might have been there to sensibly fill the gap.

This happens more and more in the story. And while reading the book out loud was loads of fun, I thought I was on the verge of a headache afterwards. I didn’t even want to move on to “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.” I thought, Nope. There may come a day where I will pick that book up and indulge until my eyes are sore. But it is not this day.

So why Shakespeare?

Yesterday I finished reading his play, “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” It was truly hilarious, different, yet with familiar styles thrown in; and it made sense. At last. Something that made sense. Basically, a man named John Falstaff tries to woo two wives at once. The wives, on finding he sent them love-letters at the same time, decide they will play sweet revenge on him. Meanwhile, the one wife’s husband, Ford, suspects his wife of betrayal. He disguises himself as a man named Brook and meets with Falstaff, saying he too wants to woo Mistress Ford. Needless to say, the wives not only get revenge on Falstaff once, but three times. The third is the climax, where he is publicly humiliated for his deeds.

There is a back story concerning Miss Anne Page looking for a husband and eventually finding the one she wishes to marry; but ultimately the focus is on the wives.

And merry wives they certainly were.

Ford learns from his jealousy and realizes his wife never intended to be with Falstaff. But even when the story closes, Falstaff has no idea that Ford is Brooks. So we get these beautiful lines at the very end from Ford:

“Let it be so. Sir John,

To Master Brook you yet shall hold your word,

For he tonight shall lie with Mistress Ford.”

 There was no way to dampen my spirits once I read those words. I had heard the best ending to end all witty endings. (Okay, perhaps not; but in the moment, nothing else mattered.)

I realize my comparison between Carroll and Shakespeare is probably a tad unfair. They are nothing alike. And why should I choose Shakespeare? Is it because of popularity and history? I don’t believe so. Even if I cannot quite grasp Carroll’s insanity, at least I can with Shakespeare. His insanity strangely makes sense to me. Maybe it’s the way he relates it to our basic humanity.

Surely, I can understand my own insanity if Shakespeare could understand Macbeth’s.


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