The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1672 Monday, 2 July 2001
Date: Saturday, 30 Jun 2001 00:13:02 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Terry Pratchett's "Wyrd Sisters"
I'd like to recommend some summer reading, or just escapist reading for
any season, that might especially appeal to SHAKSPERians.
Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series of fantasies has attracted a
devoted following in Britain but is only starting to catch on here.
They all take place on a magical world called "The Disc" that is round
and flat and carried through the cosmos on the back of four elephants
who stand in turn on the back of a giant tortoise called Al-Tuin. This
world is populated by wizards whose grasp of magic is very
unpredictable, heroic warriors striving to follow the example of the
greatest of their number, Cohen the Barbarian, who has published several
useful guides to the business, an "anthropomorphic projection" of Death
who rides to his rendezvous on a horse named "Binky," and a metropolis
at its heart, Ankh-Morpork, whose corruption and violence reaches heroic
proportions. All of this glorious nonsense is carried on in a prose
that is chock full of wit and invention.
To put it another way, imagine if P.G. Wodehouse had written "The Lord
of the Rings."
Pratchett's "Wyrd Sisters" has numerous Shakespearean references that
will, I think, amuse those who get them. The lost son of the murdered
king of a severely challenged kingdom has been handed off to a troupe of
traveling players by the three witches who are determined to protect
him. He grows up to be a formidable actor and is brought back to regain
his rightful throne. The dwarf who writes the plays for the company
keeps almost composing Shakespeare's lines, and even almost writes a bit
of Beckett when he is really pressed. At one point he realizes that for
his new play two witches would be inadequate, four too many, but three
just the right number. Funny no one else has thought of this. The
narrative leads up to a command performance at the provincial castle, to
which the players have reluctantly traveled from their new urban
playhouse, "The Dyske," in Ankh-Morpork. The working conditions of the
actors mirror wonderfully, in a funhouse sort of way, the conditions
described by Glynn Wickham, E.K. Chambers and others.
I suspect that some of you who read this installment will be as hooked
as I am and will seek out the others.
Pick it up. Take it to the beach. You'll enjoy it.
Have a great summer.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://ws.bowiestate.edu>