Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Status

(This is one of the three spreadsheets that I'm currently using to keep track of my progress. I'm crazy like that.)

At present, to the best of my understanding, there are thirty-eight surviving plays that are widely accepted to be – whether as significant part of a collaboration or as a whole – the work of William Shakespeare. If you count thirty-six in your ultra-rare first printing of Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies from 1623 (a.k.a. The First Folio), then take note of Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen to bring yourself up to that current total.

My goal is to read them all, along with the 154 sonnets and other poems he definitely wrote, not to mention the smattering of works which he may or may not have had anything to do with – just to be safe.

In any case, my main focus to start with has been the plays. Again, counting only from Julius Caesar last spring, not the half-dozen plays I was assigned in high school or college, my completion stats at the moment are:

12 of 16 Comedies (Still to go: Love’s Labor’s Lost, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, All’s Well That Ends Well, and The Two Noble Kinsmen)

8 of 10 Histories (Still to go: Richard III, and King John)

2 of 12 Tragedies (Still to go: everything except Julius Caesar and Macbeth)

22 of 38 Total

Now, before you start e-mailing me with things like “What do you mean you never read Hamlet?” or “Hey, I taught you Romeo and Juliet!” please know that while I could make a good case for having read those and three other tragedies at least once, the fact is that I encountered those plays too long ago to claim any credit for the purpose of this mission.

Most recently I have been making my way through the histories, and I’m getting really into them! More on that next post. For now, I will say that I’m currently reading Richard III. Although I’m only one act in, – SPOILER ALERT – the word on the street is that he is a bad, bad man.

Very much unlike yourself, who is awesome for reading this blog (along with other great awesomeness credentials, I’m sure).


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Mission

I am on a mission to read everything that William Shakespeare ever wrote. The more I look into it, the less sure I am exactly how much material that is, but more on that later. The Shakespeare project has been a major focus of mine since this past September, though it actually began a few months before that, and had been something I kind of had in mind for several years now. I’m not counting anything before March of last year, when I read and taught Julius Caesar (neither for the first time). Since then, I have read twenty-two of Shakespeare's thirty-eight canonical plays - more on the canon later too, if you’re wondering.

It started simply enough: I graduated college in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in English and my teaching certification, but what I didn’t have was the feeling that I was terribly well-read. My college had an excellent English program, but for every classic work of literature I did study, I realized that there were dozens more that I hadn’t. Throughout my first four years in education, I’ve become more and more driven to become the best teacher I can be. I may not ever be able to actually know it all (despite my occasional attitude suggesting the contrary), but I am determined to constantly learn as much as I can. I feel very strongly that every book or play that I read helps make me a better English teacher, and – in the well-rounded, man of the world sense – a better person.

I figured that if I was going to expand my knowledge of literature that there was no better place to start than at the top – and that meant Shakespeare. For many people, Shakespeare is the greatest challenge they face as readers. If I could crack that code, I thought, if I could know everything there was to know about Shakespeare, then I could look in the mirror and know that I truly belonged in front of an English classroom.

Operating on the very best of advice (my amazing fiancĂ©e’s), I’m going to share my Shakespeare experience here on this blog in a variety of forms. The mission has been going so well, and has really surprised me in that this is no longer simply an item on my long-term to-do-list, instead it is a full-fledged passion, and one I hope might become interactive and interpersonal in this new medium. I appreciate your interest, and I would love to receive your comments, questions, reactions, personal experiences and reviews, or anything else you can think of.

In my next post, I plan to share the details of what I have under my belt so far, what is on my plate right now, and my plan of attack for the rest of Shakespeare’s catalogue.

Until then, best wishes!