Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shakespeare in My Life

Once upon a time, I was an English major taking a Shakespeare class. And the professor encouraged us to read each assigned play three times. Listening to him lecture, I was impressed that he never referred to notes or to the text, but always knew what scene and act the lines he was discussing came from. So, I read through each play twice and then at the end of the semester, read them all a third time. By that point, whenever I took a nap, my dreams were filled with Elizabethan English. I guess that's the closest I've ever gotten to dreaming in a foreign language since I've never been much of a linguist.

Once upon a time before that, I was a know-it-all fourth grader, reading my first Shakespeare--A Midsummer Night's Dream (abridged). I was convinced that the performance my parents wanted to take me to set in the 1950's was going to be all wrong. A real iconoclast, I only listened to classical music and told my cooler classmates that rock music was horrible. Needless to say, I was wrong on many counts and I can still remember the closing scene complete with "Goin' to the Chapel" as background music. It was great. Later on, I saw a high school performance of the same play that exuded such joy and delight--I wondered why my high school theater program never did anything but musicals.

Fast forward to the present: I usually see some performance of Shakespeare once a year or every other year but I really don't read it anymore. When my husband and I were dating and first married, we used to divide up the roles and read a play together, especially if a movie version was coming out soon.

So, this summer as I was packing up all my books to move, I decided that I wanted to read more Shakespeare but wasn't sure how to do it. I googled for a reading challenge but didn't find one and took the plunge. I don't think I'll be reading each play three times but I do plan to do some background reading, especially for the history plays. I've put "Shakespeare's English Kings" on my Christmas list. Also, scamper recommended Garber's "Shakespeare After All" and Asimov's "Guide to Shakespeare" in a comment if anyone's looking for more resources.


  1. Greetings! I won't be officially joining you on this journey this year since I'm in the midst of my own big reading project, but I wish you the best of luck and will be following your progress. Garber's book is my very favorite Shakespeare book and I highly recommend reading the relevant chapter immediately after reading the play. I really like Bill Bryson's introduction ( as well.

  2. Thanks for the resource suggestion - I'm going to pick up the Garber book - I have never been a strong reader of shakespeare but this should help.