Books

So I’m going to read all of Shakespeare this year

2014 was my Year of Dickens. I (foolishly) thought I’d be able to read all of Dickens’ major novels in one year. I made a good stab at it, ended up reading seven of his fifteen novels. I was content with that. 2015 was then christened the Year of Atwood, which was an unbridled failure.  I read The Edible Woman and The Handmaid’s Tale. That was it. One of the major factors that hindered these challenges was the fact that I had to go out and buy or loan the books. Now, I am laziness personified so the thought of having to walk outside of my bedroom to get a book was near abhorrent to me. I’m still like this.

For the first semester of my second year of uni I did a Shakespeare module (like everyone who’s ever worked towards an English degree). For this module I had to buy the floppy monolith that is the Norton Shakespeare. Even though I only properly studied three plays (Richard III, As You Like It, and Antony and Cleopatra) I’m now stuck with a half-tonne of Shakespeare’s complete works. So I thought, I’m not using this book for another year and it’s only going to collect dust so I may as well read it.

The location problem isn’t a factor this year. I have all of the plays. I can hold them all in my hand (for about ten-seconds before my arthritis kicks in). So I’m going to read of all Shakespeare this year. Of course, there are some reservations. I’m not going to re-read the ones I’ve already read purely because if I read Macbeth again I WILL unseam myself from the nave to the chops. I’ll also only be reading full plays, no fragments or “parts”. As for reading order, I’m going to use my time-tested formula of chronologically from first written to last. Now with Shakespeare the chronology of his works has been debated for literal centuries, but Norton has put together their own chronology which seems about as close as most academics can agree on, so (excluding the ones I’ve read) here is my reading list for the year:

1. The Two Gentlemen of Verona

2. The Taming of the Shrew

3. The First Part of Henry the Sixth

4. The Second Part of Henry the Sixth

5. The Third Part of Henry the Sixth

6. Titus Andronicus

7. The Comedy of Errors

8. Love’s Labour’s Lost

9. Richard II

10. Romeo and Juliet

11. King John

12. The First Part of Henry the Fourth

13. The Second Part of Henry the Fourth

14. The Merchant of Venice

15. Much Ado About Nothing

16. The Merry Wives of Windsor

17. Henry the Fifth

18. Hamlet

19. Twelfth Night

20. Troilus and Cressida

21. Measure for Measure

22. King Lear

23. Timon of Athens

24. All’s Well That End’s Well

25. Pericles

26. Coriolanus

27. Cymbeline

28. The Winter’s Tale

29. The Tempest

30. Henry the Eighth

31. The Two Noble Kinsmen

Quite the list. As you can see I’m including the plays on which Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights because they are full-length plays and are technically Shakespeare plays. Overall, the majority of the plays are 100 pages or under so this won’t be an incredibly time consuming challenge like the Year of Dickens was. If I only read three plays a month I’ll finish this list with months to spare.

I’ll be keeping track of my progress on here with a summary post after every five plays I read. So, let’s see how this goes.

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3 thoughts on “So I’m going to read all of Shakespeare this year

  1. You already know I’m doing the same thing. I got a leather-bound edition of all of Shakespeare’s works but the only downside is that it doesn’t have any notes or any scholarship work in it but nevertheless I’m still using it. My edition says the plays are in order too, but it’s a tad different from yours.

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  2. I’m interested to see how the order will influence your readings of the plays. What developments stick out in writing or themes. I’m always interested in that, and that’s something I thought was interesting when I, of course, took my obligatory Shakespeare classes in college.

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