Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics

Loading

You might think, while reading Henry VI Part 2, that Shakespeare was writing about recent events, the writer merely masking them in archaic historical dress. Okay, even if you have read some of the Bard’s plays, the three Henry VI plays probably aren’t among the ones you read in university or high school. They can be a slog to read in part because they were among his earliest, and the story meanders a lot. But bear with me. They were the lead into Richard III, … click below for more ↓

Musings on The Tempest and Council

Loading

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 and passengers, while the panicked elites run around like headless chickens on the deck, wailing and bemoaning, afraid for … click below for more ↓

Musings on Shakespeare Guidebooks

Loading

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 world. From essays on a single soliloquy to books that explore the entire canon, there is no shortage of … click below for more ↓

Books of Quotations from Shakespeare

Loading

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 later editions than those noted here. First, I classify them as four different types of quotation books: Dictionary style … click below for more ↓

Musings on Reading the Bard Over a Year

Loading

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, I had several lists to examine (here’s a PDF I made of the first few I discovered and collated) … click below for more ↓

Musings on the Complete Works

Loading

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 I don’t own (but may in the future). This is meant to help me select which version I might … click below for more ↓

Musings on Shakespearean Apocrypha

Loading

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, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; The Two Noble Kinsmen; Edward III;  The Book of Sir Thomas More; Cardenio; and … click below for more ↓

Musings on Montaigne’s Cannibals

Loading

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 read the Essays. If it was at the time he was writing The Tempest, by then (1611) Shakespeare was … click below for more ↓

Musings on Shakespeare’s Anachronisms

Loading

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 just one of several well-known anachronisms in Shakespeare’s plays. Roman timekeeping by sundial also meant that hours varied from … click below for more ↓

Musings on Shakespeare’s Goodbye

Loading

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 True aka Henry VIII). No one can be quite sure of this order because dating the plays is inexact, … click below for more ↓

More Musings on Shakespeare

Loading

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 many other editions) in which Juliet speaks: What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, … click below for more ↓

Musing on the Authorship Question Again

Loading

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 can find its counterparts in alien abductions, chemtrails, Pizzagate, Trump’s election victory, pro-disease/anti-vaccination protests, astrology, creationism,  Bigfoot, Atlantis, and … click below for more ↓

Musings on Downsizing Shakespeare

Loading

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 persevered with my purge (with Susan making sure I did…). I looked at every shelf to first decide which … click below for more ↓

Musings on Poets and Poetry

Loading

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 references, for critical commentary, and often to the dictionary. Bloom’s commentaries and essays are a challenge to me because … click below for more ↓

Back to Top