On Reading Shakespeare

About a year and half ago, I had this brilliant idea that I was going to read all of Shakespeare’s plays (there are 38). I even wrote a blog post about it. Over that time, I have picked up copies of several of the plays and started to diligently read them. I have read an Act or two from The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, and even Hamlet. And how many have I finished? Not one.

About a month ago, I tried to figure out if this was still something that I wanted to do and if so, what was keeping me from accomplishing this task. I realized that there were two things that I was doing wrong. First, I didn’t have a plan. I kept telling myself that I would just pick up whatever Shakespeare play piqued my interest and when I was done with that one, I would move onto the next. Without a goal, there is no drive to finish. Second, I wasn’t reading the right editions of Shakespeare’s play. I was purchasing cheap copies that contained four or five plays back to back with no supplementary material. That meant that when I was slogging through Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy, I had to try to figure out the meaning on my own.

Well folks, I’m here to say that I’m going to give this a try one more time. I have, hopefully, fixed the issues that were keeping me from success in the past. I now have a plan. Unlike the Shakespeare in a Year project, I know that I can’t finish a play in a week. There are too many other things going in my life for that. But I do think that I can finish one in about three weeks on average. I have listed out all 38 plays, figured out which ones I am interested in reading first, and set a schedule to complete one every three weeks between now and the end of the year (that is 13 plays). As I get closer to the end of the year, I will plan out more of the plays for next year.

In addition to my plan, I found an edition of the plays that makes them easier for me to understand. Last year, on our trip to Washington, DC, we visited the Folger Shakespeare Library, a world-renowned research center on Shakespeare and the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. The just happen to produce their own editions of the plays that contain facing-page glosses, scene-by-scene summaries, and explanatory notes by Shakespeare experts. Earlier this year, A.J. used a Folger edition for school project and found it much easier to understand.

Earlier this month, I purchased my first four plays and begin this new endeavor. I picked four that I perceive to be easier; Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. I am hoping to get through them a little quicker so that I can build up a little bit of a buffer for when other priorities move this down the list. As of right now, I am 14 pages away from finishing my first one, Much Ado About Nothing, about an entire week early.

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