Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The question has been raised - Have you read all of Shakespeare?

Well, yes, I have - several times in fact. But it is my profession in a way.

Not that I haven't had great pleasure from doing so - even the poems. And I have returned to many of the works repeatedly.

I suspect I am now coming to the end of my "intellectual wanderings or quest": Certain signs in my body prompt expectations of mortality.

Siren like, the words call again.

I have decided, on a whim, to make a final pass through the complete works and have gone into preparation.

Keeping faith with the theatre, I am going to do the journey in performances. Of necessity they will be mainly on DVD - Romanian theatre is limited in live performances, and, as it is Shakespeare's words I want, limited there too.

I hope to get in a trip to The Globe - and possibly the RSC too.

I am fortunate to have the local British Library - they have nearly all the BBC Shakespeare for loan (although, irritatingly, someone has stolen Titus). And I have a selection of my own of the more popular.

Just to add spice, I have plumbed for an unusual (although quite logical) route: I am going to do it in the same order as written.

Now, I know this is a contentious issue - so I am following Stanley Wells and the Penguin Shakespeare Chronology. No objections accepted.

I hope not only to revisit old friends, but maybe get a couple of insights on the way - juxtaposing what was in the craftsman's mind as he worked.

Needless to say (so I will) I'll be blogging along the way.

A travel diary forsooth.


Craig said...

Tremendous! I read all the works and saw all the plays (counting live, video and audio productions) last year. It was immense; I'm still thinking about the connections and resonances at odd moments. What do you include in your canon? Edward III? Thomas More? The Arden Shakespeare is even bringing out an edition of Double Falsehood next year, on the theory that some of Shakespeare's work can still be seen through Theobald's adaptation of Cardenio.

One other thing--you're going to need to go beyond the BBC Shakespeare for Two Noble Kinsmen, since they didn't produce it--hardly defensible even 30 years ago, but there it is. Fortunately, the Arkangel Complete Shakespeare includes an audio dramatization of Kinsmen that I think is just wonderful; really captures the quirky, offbeat nature of this odd little play.

Alan K.Farrar said...

I am going to be 'a tad traditional' in my choice - Edward and Thomas Moore contain bits of Shakespeare, so I might just read them (although there is an alternative I am not prepared to reveal yet).

Double Falsehood I dismiss out of hand - have you ever read any of it? I follow the argument that it might have had a Shakespeare contribution - but it is so messed around, you need radar to find it: Better leave that out.

I quite like Two Noble Kinsmen - but, seeing as it is at the other end of my journey, I'll start to worry about that when I get closer.

The BBC is doing a new 'Complete Works' - maybe ....

And, although it has its problems (like some awful versions) the BBC do manage to do nearly everything - so the backbone they remain.

More immediate a problem is the sonnets - anyone got a chronology of the date of their writing (as opposed to publication)?

Gedaly said...

That's a great idea! Best of luck to you with that. Keep us posted with any insights you have along the way. And you're welcome for the idea, since you blamed me.

Also I did a little digging about the chronological order of the sonnets. I didn't find anything to gave a good answer. I'll be looking into it further though, you've sparked my curiosity.


Craig said...

I know what you mean about Double Falsehood--nothing in it stirs me in the least. That's one reason I'm so eager to see the Arden edition: to hear the case their editors make for it. Frankly, my inclination is to doubt "Cardenio" was ever a Shakespeare play, since the fellow who registered "Cardenio" to Shakespeare made a lot of other bogus attributions. I'm not sure how "Cardenio" got to be the official "lost play," when we never talk about "Henry I" or "Iphis and Iolanthe." But I find myself conspicuously in the minority on that point.

I do hope the BBC can make another complete works a reality--there were some clunkers, sure, in the original, but also some real gems. The Henry VI plays in particular I just loved.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Agree with you on the Henry VI plays - those productions opened my eyes to the early Histories.
The Henry VIII was also great (although nothing betters 'The Dream' for me.
Edward III is likely to be read in sequence rather than seen, and bits of More too.