So, What Is This "Project" Exactly?
1. I have to read all works attributed to Shakespeare within one year’s time from my first blog post. Then I gots to write about it. This averages out about one work and a corresponding post every 7-8 days, if I'm good.
(EDIT 3/28/16: So...as my posts have gotten more in depth, and as I worked a few part-time projects for my former employer the past few months...doing the whole canon within a year was ambitious. Let's now target completion by end of 2016, the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. Now I have to get back to reading!)
2. Yes, that means all plays, including the ones that are widely considered to be (even partially written) by him – I’m looking at you, Edward III. And I have to re-read anything I've ever previously read.
3. Yup, this also includes the narrative poems and sonnets. I'm a masochist.
4. Where easily available and as time allows, I’ll also try to catch performances of that week’s work. This shit was written to be watched, after all. Guaranteed this will be more Netflix than live theatre.
5. I can consult any supplemental materials on the work to better understand it, and I’ll always list anything I use. I’m working primarily off the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare unless otherwise noted. Solid shout out to the Essential Shakespeare Handbook (Leslie Dunton-Downer & Alan Riding) as well!
Why Would You Ever Want to Do This, You Complete Nerd?
I was an English major and a long-ago actor, so this sort of thing is my idea of fun. I fully acknowledge that it’s been over a decade since I’ve written any literary essays or been on a stage. If I miss some hugely obvious thematic points, you can assume that, of course, I totally thought of those points and just didn’t think them worth noting. Or that I never realized that [enter obvious theme/metaphor/historical context here] was even a thing. No assurances of original, ground-breaking scholarship here.
I've been a minor obsessive of Shakespeare since the age of 12. Here's a list of many reasons why:
- The Lion King was a pretty sweet kid-friendly version of Hamlet. Yes, I realize it's a far cry from the play, but you can't deny the influences.
- My favorite book at age 12, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), had a main character whose mother read her a page of the King James bible and a page from her Shakespeare complete works every single night as a child. That sounded like a secret club that I needed to join.
- Kenneth Branagh.
- I was a very impressionable freshman in high school when Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet was released, and I also happened to be studying it in Honors English at that time. Plus, that soundtrack still kicks ass.
- My 10th grade Honors English teacher Mr. Birrer and my university Shakespeare professor Dr. Dickey.
- A spectacular performance of The Tempest performed by the RSC in Stratford in 1998, which was the first full Shakespearean production I ever saw. Also seeing the insanely amazing Mark Rylance in Twelfth Night in a traveling performance at UCLA around 2003. And Taylor Doose as Prospero at CalShakes a few years ago.
- I've had the sheer luck to perform as Bianca, Helena, and Miranda. I've held smaller parts and done scene work from other plays and seen some super talented peers bring his words to life in new ways. Nothing hooks you like getting to speak those beautiful words in front of a live audience.
- The Folger Library is one of the coolest places I've ever been.
- I used to make my brother and mama play my favorite board game, The Play's the Thing. They were always super reluctant (weird!).
- 400 years ago a man named William Shakespeare was still alive. He had written numerous popular works, performed them for royalty and commoners alike, and managed to make a decent living as a shareholder in the playhouses. 400 years of turmoil and change in this world...and his words still are performed and studied and enjoyed. They're still relevant. How is that not fascinating?