Ready for some Shakespeare?

And we are back! That little mishap of mine took longer to recover from than expected. The doctors told me I’d have use of my finger in two weeks. Wrong! Though the wound healed nicely in about three, the pain lingered for about a month. I tried not to use the stub while typing, as every bounce on the keyboard sent burning pain up the finger, but sense memory would take over and I found myself cursing at work more than usual. And when I did manage to keep my middle finger ridged (insert joke here) the other fingers would become confused as where to be. My sentences would start to look like this; Hello, I am wrotg;m tu… Some times I compose whole e-mails without looking only to find they were full of gibberish. As if I had placed a monkey in front of my keyboard to see just how long it would take for her to compose a Shakespeare play.

Speaking of Shakespeare, it is time I finally got started on my project in which we take each play and find a theme or a subject that speaks to today’s audience. It is my hope that by the end, we have discovered why Shakespeare still matters and answer the question I get all the time, “Why should I care about Shakespeare?”

I’ve hesitated to write about the canon as there are a lot, and I do mean a lot, of blogs out there that focus exclusively on the plays, but, to be honest, a lot these are as long as the plays themselves and lose their impact because of it. It has taken me a while to come up with what I hope, is a unique spin when it comes to blogging about Shakespeare. And besides, I don’t want to spoil the play for you. I have no intention of giving you a blow-by-blow take on each act, each scene. My hope is to wet your appetite for Shakespeare and to go out and seek a performance for yourselves.

So here is what we are going to do. We are going to go through the plays in alphabetical order. You can read the play ahead of time or watch it via a medium of your choice. I am going to pick out one, sometimes two aspects of the play that we modern audiences can relate to. After all, the incredible thing about the man was his ability to be a mirror for the human condition. Shakespeare is for all time because of his gift of illustrating our follies and our wins. We can identify with most of his characters; good and bad. It is up to us to determine if we are willing to look and then learn something about ourselves.

As much as I loathe to put Shakespeare in modern context it will be hard not to because he does still speak to us. We will look at each play in the context of his time and then see where we fit into his worldview. Some things never change. And although manners, social construct ,and values change, the human condition does not. Fore example modern scholars view many of his plays as misogynistic and therefor feel uncomfortable with them, yet we must admit misogyny is alive and well in the 21-century, and many that of the actions of Shakespeare characters (I am looking at you Petruchio) can be seen in today’s dramas and action movies(I’m looking at you Bond).

Sunday is Shakespeare’s 453 birthday, and I can think of no better day to start this project. We will begin by looking at All’s Well That Ends Well, a problem play written around the same time as Hamlet; somewhere in the early 1600s. It’s a problem play for many reasons but specifically for scholars and theater owners, it is a problem because it is one of the few plays in which the lead female does not exhibit many good qualities. Shakespeare uses a wide array of plot devises in the hopes that the audience doesn’t notice her flaws, but in this he fails, and thus it is labeled as a problem play. Would we recognize Helen if we saw her today? Absolutely, and we probably wouldn’t like or respect her much.

Until Sunday!

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

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