Musings on The Tempest and Council

It was a dark and stormy night… Shakespeare’s last solo-authored play, The Tempest, opens with a storm (the eponymous tempest) in which a group of elite passengers (a king, a duke, relatives, and courtly hangers-on) gets washed overboard (or jump) while the working sailors remain safe onboard their ship. In fact, the working class are sturdy, brave, and steadfast as they struggle to save the ship … (more–>)

Musings on Shakespeare Guidebooks

Unless you’re an academic who has studied The Bard for your entire career, you really need a guide, a Virgil if you will, to enter the dark forest of Shakespeare and find your way about in it. At the very least, you’ll want a guide to Shakespeare’s language and wordplay to illuminate the texts. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides to be had in the printed … (more–>)

Books of Quotations from Shakespeare

A good book of selected quotations from Shakespeare is a nice complement to the collected works. Properly arranged, it lets you find relevant aphorisms, and speeches on a wide variety of topics; bon mots you can drop into conversations, emails, and blog posts. As is my wont, I have collected several of these books, and herein are my opinions of them. Note that there may be … (more–>)

Musings on Reading the Bard Over a Year

Wonderful thing, the internet. You can type “complete works reading list Shakespeare” into a search engine and come up with dozens of lists with a recommended order for reading The Bard’s plays and poems over the period of a year. And none of them the same or seemingly made with the same logic. But, it seems, many have taken up the challenge. In almost no time, … (more–>)

Musings on the Complete Works

When the Arden Shakespeare: Complete Works arrived this week (an early birthday gift from my wife who might have wanted to hide it until the actual date… oops… I saw the postie arrive…), I thought it might be time to put together a spreadsheet identifying some of the key differences between the various versions of the “complete works” in my library, and among those other editions … (more–>)

Musings on Shakespearean Apocrypha

When the First Folio was published in 1623, it had 36 of the Bard’s plays, listed in three categories: histories, tragedies, and comedies (it didn’t include his longer poems, or the sonnets)*. And even then, these were not all of his plays. Several were not included, although they were known to the folio’s compilers. For reasons unknown, there were several plays missing from the original canon, … (more–>)

Musings on Montaigne’s Cannibals

Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals contributed at least some of the content and ideas in Shakespeare’s late play, The Tempest. A speech by the recently-shipwrecked counsellor Gonzalo in Act 2, Sc.1 about creating a utopian community on the island is lifted almost word-for-word from this essay.* Montaigne’s other essays might have added to other of The Bard’s plays as well, although we can’t be sure when he … (more–>)

Musings on Shakespeare’s Anachronisms

When the clock struck three in Julius Caesar, you probably scratched your head, knowing that striking clocks didn’t exist two millennia ago in the play’s setting. In Caesar’s time, people checked sundials or water clocks (clepsydra), neither of which — inconveniently for the Bard — chimed. It would be almost 1,300 years after Caesar that the first “weight-driven mechanical clock was recorded in England” (in1283). It’s … (more–>)

Musings on Shakespeare’s Goodbye

Prospero’s words in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, have long been thought to have been Shakespeare’s own goodbye to the theatrical world, assuming, of course, you are reading the play or at least these speeches as autobiographical. After all, The Tempest was the last play The Bard wrote by himself. He did, of course, work in collaboration for at least two more plays (Pericles and All is … (more–>)

More Musings on Shakespeare

The Complete Pelican Shakespeare (edited by Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller, Penguin Books, 2002) has a short but insightful essay on the texts of Shakespeare that illustrates the choices editors have made when dealing with the texts they want to present their version to the public. It uses a single, well-known verse from Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Sc.2, lines 40-44 in the Pelican and … (more–>)

Musing on the Authorship Question Again

The “authorship question” — who wrote Shakespeare’s works, aside that is, from Shakespeare himself — is a conspiracy that seems a metaphor for modern society.  It contains the seeds of many popular conspiracies within it: pseudoscience, suspicions about authority, declarations of revelation, blind faith, angry defences, opinions and interpretations, Youtube quacks, amateurs posing as researchers, wild claims, and the paranoia we find on social media. You … (more–>)

Musings on Downsizing Shakespeare

While downsizing my library earlier this spring (25-30 boxes of books already removed from the shelves and some titles still left to cull), I had to think about what books to keep. This was tough for me, what with my passion for books and reading, parting with any book, especially one I’ve had for decades, can be like losing a child or a pet.  But I … (more–>)

Musings on Poets and Poetry

For me, reading the American literary critic, Harold Bloom, is often like wading in molasses. Intellectual molasses, to be sure, but slow going nonetheless. His writing is thick with difficult ideas and difficult words. Bloom’s historical reach, his knowledge and his understanding of the tapestry of literature far outstrip mine, so I find myself scuttling to the Net or other books on my shelf for collateral … (more–>)

Shakespeare’s Mirror

Grant that, and then is death a benefit. So are we Caesar’s friends, that have abridged His time of fearing death. Stoop, Romans, stoop, And let us bathe our hands in Caesar’s blood Up to the elbows and besmear our swords. Then walk we forth, even to the marketplace, And, waving our red weapons o’er our heads, Let’s all cry “Peace, freedom, and liberty!” Shakespeare: Julius … (more–>)

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