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....)

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.


  1. I love this idea! I'll look forward to tracking your progress!

  2. What fun! And three plays a month seems pretty manageable. If you watch the DVD, do you have to read too? Sorry to hear about the career crisis .