Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Of Shakespeare and Dresden


Bam! Another book of The Dresden Files under my belt. I didn't like Proven Guilty quite as much as Dead Beat, but writing a reanimated T-Rex rampaging through the streets of Chicago has to be some sort of author-ly peak. I felt the same way after reading Gateways by F. Paul Wilson. The Repairman Jack/Adversary Cycle series never quite had a moment as awesome as when Oyv the Chihuahua chewed his way out of a mutant alligator in book seven.

Read these books. Read them and love them.
But back to Dresden. I was discussing the series with a friend who has read all of The Dresden Files through Cold Days, and he compared the books to acts, claiming that if there will really be roughly 30 books in the series (as Butcher has planned), then Proven Guilty concludes Act I.

I already had Shakespeare on the brain from watching Shakespeare Uncovered, so I thought about this for a while. I came to the conclusion that maybe I have been looking at The Dresden Files all wrong, and that maybe I should have more faith in Jim Butcher as an author, and trust that the issues I have with Harry Dresden will resolve themselves in the grand scheme of things.


In Shakespeare's tragedies especially, something momentous happens at the end of each act. There are usually five acts in a Shakespeare tragedy and the end of the third act is the major turning point in the play - i.e. where something so irreversible happens that there's nothing the protagonist can do except ride out the consequences of his or her actions. Romeo kills Tybalt in the third act, Hamlet kills Polonius in the third act, Antony dies in the third act, Regan and Edmund gouge out Gloucester's eyes in the third act, Titus Andronicus cuts off his own hand in the third act, etc.

Anthony Hopkins makes this pie at the end of the movie Titus. Guess what's inside of it?
So, if I look at The Dresden Files in terms of acts in a tragedy, I find I'm better able to appreciate the series. Instead of Harry simply having one improbable adventure after another, each new installment seems to be adding up to something big, something greater than the sum of its parts. That being said, I feel like I finished Act II with Proven Guilty as opposed to Act I. I would argue that Act I ended with Dresden setting fire to a whole bunch of Red Court vampires, kicking off the war between the Red Court and the White Council. Proven Guilty ends Act II with Dresden pissing off the Merlin (head of the White Council), taking a giant magical dump on the capital of the Winter fey, and realizing that there is some sort of shadow organization that has been making everyone's lives hell since the first book in the series.

Thank you, Allie Brosh, for creating the original "all the things" meme.
 Modern literature doesn't really fall under the categories of tragedy or comedy as easily as Shakespeare's plays. While I don't know how The Dresden Files will play out, many not so subtle hints in the series point to some seriously dark times ahead for Harry and company. Maybe I'm a literary masochist, but I love a good tragedy. With this new long range outlook on The Dresden Files, I can safely say that I'm in it with Harry for the long haul, for better or worse.

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