Thirty-seven plays in twelve months?

Will a completion of the Complete Works of Shakespeare solve my career crisis?
(SPOILER: The answer is no, not exactly....)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eat no onions nor garlic...

A Midsummer Night's Dream

How could I let midsummer pass without reading A Midsummer Night's Dream? I deviated from my chronological course and brought my petite blue play book on my vacation to México. I truly put the “vacate” in “vacation” this time!

I didn’t cook, clean, drive, type, phone, login, log off, download, upload, conference, audit, escalate, procrastinate, complain, or stew. I did eat, sleep, drink, make merry, and translate: “Estoy leyendo una historia con dos pares de novios y ‘fairies.’”

I also spent one afternoon in the back garden of my suegros (parents-in-law), surrounded by lime, pomegranate, and peach trees, finishing the play.

"And, most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath, and I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy.” (IV, 2, 43)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No treachery; but want of men and money

I headed through the stacks toward 822.33 and found the cutest little blue copies of the plays! The Yale Shakespeare edition, copyright 1918 (third printing 1961) measures 4.5 by 7 inches per play. I checked out Henry VI Parts I, II, and III. They even smell old!

I am going to look just like a medieval abbess reading these! That is, a medieval abbess sitting in a Honda in the parking lot at the manufacturing facility. It’s just too humid for a wimple.

I had to make a chart to keep track of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster factions. Since this was the first Shakespeare history I had read in its entirety, I was pleased to see Joan of Arc as one of his characters. Why do they keep these secrets from high school students?

Some of my favorite lines include Mortimer’s description of old age and dying (II, 5, 5-15 and IV, 5, 4) and the comment about the French (I’m French, so it’s OK for me to like it!): “Done like a Frenchman: turn, and turn again!” (III, 3, 85).

By the time I finished Part I and picked up Part II, stuff had started to hit the fan at work, and my lunchtime reading time was put on hold. Now I’m behind schedule (at work and on my Shakesyeare project) and on a daily basis feel I could shout,

May never glorious sun reflex his beams
Upon the country where you make abode;
But darkness and the gloomy shade of death
Environ you, till mischief and despair
Drive you to break your necks or hang yourselves!
(V, 4, 87-91)

Yet, I’m pretty sure that would be a violation of our corporate harassment policy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Comedy of Errors

If the library book is due tomorrow, does that mean this blog post is overdue?

My work situation has stabilized – in my head at least – since I started my Shakespearean quest (or is it really a Quixotic quest?). So, what did I find most relatable in The Comedy of Errors? The repeated misunderstandings caused by two sets of twins who are apparently not only identical but are also wearing matching sets of clothes?

No: the repeated beatings of the Dromios by the Antipholuses (II, 2, 23; IV, 4, 18; IV, 4, 45; IV, 4, 53). For truly, what is an on-site staffing vendor if not a servant to be beaten again and again by the client…I mean master? I love the sixteenth century violence because it is just so politically incorrect in the context of a twenty-first century work space. Our repeated beatings are non-physical yet often comical and usually painful. It sure wasn’t Dromio’s (either one) fault! Antipholus just had to come to certain conclusions based on bad data.

On the lighter side, I can finally appreciate what my high school English teachers were trying to instill: Mr. Shakespeare was a poet! My lunch breaks spent reading The Comedy of Errors became not only a respite from the grind of staffing operations and compliance…and paperwork – oh, the paperwork! They became a haven from the complete works of text messaging, corporate-speak, and sloppy spelling that fills my email inbox (and what is the deal with this “invented spelling” they are teaching my kindergartener – where are the blogs on that?).

I’ve never seen a Hallmark card as good as this:
“It is thyself, mine own self’s better part,
Mine eye’s clear eye, my dear heart’s dearer heart;
My food, my fortune, and my sweet hope’s aim;
My sole earth’s heaven, and my heaven’s claim.” (III, 2, 60)


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crisis Averted

What a week! Two competent colleagues out; confidence in my career track, which had been plummeting lately, hit rock bottom when suddenly I had a crisis of conscience. My yearning for being a stay-at-home mom again was stronger than my credit card debt was deep. I needed a big change and fast. I casually emailed my former employer and within days had another job offer which would solve my short term confusion but not my long term goal of something “else.”

The end of that very long week was the 23rd of April, possibly the birth date of William Shakespeare, and certainly his death date. Usually I celebrate by displaying my postcards from Stratford-upon-Avon, telling everyone I talk to that it’s Shakespeare’s birthday today, and walking around the house with my copy of The Complete Works. I just carry it around. I don’t read any of it.

I nearly dragged my husband and son to Lenox, Mass., but I was so frustrated by my misery at work, I let another “Shakespeare’s birthday event” slip away without a major undertaking.

Then it hit me: who am I to celebrate the bard’s birthday? Because I once took a double-decker bus ride around Stratford? Because I took notice of the new Globe construction on London’s South Bank back in 1993? Because I celebrated my 29th birthday as a penny-payer at “King Lear?” I didn’t even make it to the third act: my new Doc Martens were killing me. I needed to do something big: READ ALL THE PLAYS.

That night, Friday, April 23, 2010, I took my giant copy of William Shakespeare Complete Works (a “Bargain Value” at £3.99 circa 1992; published 1991 by The Promotional Reprint Company Limited for Bookmart Limited, Desford Road, Enderby, Leicester, U.K., reprinted 1992…so it really was a bargain!), and I sat down in front of Google to make…

…my plan: read all of Shakespeare’s plays in one year, from the 23rd of April to the 23rd of April. Within his works I shall find inspiration to sort out my professional life! I shall instill in my kindergartener a love for the words. Then, at last, in the spring of 2011, I shall say, “yes, I have an M.A. in English lit, and I have read all of Shakespeare’s plays.”

I’m using the list of 37 I found on OpenSourceShakespeare because I’m 37 years old, and because The Reduced Shakespeare Company said something funny about “Two Noble Kinsmen,” so I’ll read that as a bonus if I get through my list in time.

I’ll read the footnotes, maybe rent the DVDs, read original versions; all at the pace of three plays a month.

Or, maybe I’ll just read the plays and be inspired. I won’t read the Julie/Julia blog because, 1. I’m not cooking the plays, 2. I’ll never get to meet my mental mentor, and 3. I don’t want to plagiarize subconsciously!

So I sorted my list by (alleged) year of publication/performance and decided to tackle it chronologically. First up: “The Comedy of Errors.”

What about the sonnets? Maybe another year.