The New York Times September 15, 2013

Did you see the Arts & Leisure section of The New York Times on Sunday?

For a long, long time, I’ve wanted to read all of Shakespeare’s plays–all 38.

In June I was re-reading one of my favorite books, The Writing Life, by Ellen Gilchrist.Β And in it, there’s a chapter about “The Shakespeare Group.” Ellen writes:

the writing lifeWe were sitting on the swings on a screened-in porch and I said, “I wish we could go to Stratford in England and see some of Shakespeare’s plays.” I had seen plays there the year before and been dazzled by them although I only half understood what I was seeing. I had studied Shakespeare at Vanderbilt and seen the movies made from the plays. WHAT I HAD NOT DONE WAS READ THEM OUT LOUD, WHICH IS THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE.

“We could get the plays and read them,” Patti said. “We could read them right here in Fayetteville.”

“We could read King Lear!” I shouted. “Of course we could.”

“Let’s do it,” Margaret said. “Let’s do it tonight.”

So, in Ellen Gilchrist fashion, they did. And they continued to do so for at least 16 years. Later in the book, she recommends reading the plays in order. Which I thought, sure, of course, why not. But what order Shakespeare wrote them in is not exactly something that is agreed upon. After spending a couple of hours on the internet, I decided whatever order Harold Bloom thought Shakespeare wrote them in was good enough for me.

Then I thought, a deadline. One a week! Or all 38 in a year! Then I thought, why kill yourself?

So I’m reading them. In order. Kind of constantly. Hoping to read two a month. I started July 1, 2013.

I will add a tab at the top of the blog with a list and some easy-to-find details in case anyone wants to join me. I’ve also added a tiny counter to the right sidebar.

Here’s my plan …

  1. read the play
  2. listen to the play (I read first if I can but if I happen to be driving a long distance, I listen first)
  3. watch a movie if it exists and is not terrible
  4. see a play if I can

… and here are my tools:

  1. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom
  2. The Riverside Shakespeare, plus for traveling
  3. the FOLGER Shakespeare Library Editions of the individual plays, with text on the right and notes on the left
  4. The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare audio recordings (a wonderful gift request)