Friday, October 23, 2009

The Shakespeare Challenge: A Rundown

Funny how life works. My relationship with Shakespeare was virtually nil -- aside from those infamous mandatory school readings -- until one day in late August 2009, when my sis brought home a big bag of things she had pilfered from her school's Lost&Found. It was mostly old gym clothes and a few coats, but there also happened to be a student's copy of Hamlet in the mix. On a whim, I snatched it and stole away to the smoky confines of my room. (This was probably the best solution as my sister, evil little capitalist that she is, might have made me pay; she made me pay a dollar for a pair of dress shoes from the bag -- wench.) She never made a fuss about it so...

A few days later, I had built up enough courage and free time to begin reading my first Shakespeare play since my high school days. I still have not built a concrete opinion of the play, but I must have enjoyed it -- it was soon followed by Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, and Tempest.

I must have really enjoyed it -- hence the challenge alluded to in the post title: to read every play authored, or possibly authored, by Shakespeare. The goal is, at the very least, to become familiar with the plots, language, and characters. This will likely open the door for re-readings of my favorites and maybe even *shudder* a little literary criticism. The ultimate goal is to see each play live, though I may have to settle for a DVD in some cases. I look forward to exploring the BBC productions, particularly of the more obscure plays, which, so I read, tend to be better-produced than most of the big hitters.

I am not sure when I came upon the idea and I am not sure why I am so enthusiastic, but the conviction is there. I know, from my reading, Shakespeare can be a lot of fun. And at times, no doubt, it will feel like a never-ending slog. I cringe a little at all those history plays -- is Falstaff fat and drunk enough to keep my mind from the drudgery of English history? And just how bad is the greatest English writer's worst work? And can I handle reading about people carrying their own hands? (Horror of horrors, I think I can!)

But I suppose these concerns are merely deck chairs now; I best soldier on with my copies of King Lear and All's Well That Ends Well. Perhaps I will finish this challenge late next year, perhaps as my 2010 New Years resolution (that's kind of my thing now). Or am I doomed to years of wandering?

Until the answer comes, fyi, I am still chugging along with the Aeneid, nearly to Book VIII. I am determined to finish before the month is out -- wild harpies couldn't stop me.

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