All the world’s a stage

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! Or at least, the day we decided to celebrate it approximately. (Fun fact: it’s also his death day, now wouldn’t that suck?). So I’m going to talk about my own experiences with the Bard.

What I’ve read:

  • Hamlet
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • Julius Caesar
  • Titus Andronicus
  • King Lear
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • As You Like It

What I’ve seen performed:

  • Macbeth
  • King Lear
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • A Comedy of Errors
  • The Tempest
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Probably some others that I’m not remembering…

So of approximately 38 plays, I’ve either seen or read 13. Yikes. Conspicuously absent from the lists above are Othello and Twelfth Night – I sorely need to rectify that situation. The 10 histories I couldn’t care less about, but there are a few others I would like to see or read. I feel like I’ve seen/read The Taming of the Shrew because I was in a production of Kiss Me, Kate in high school, but that doesn’t exactly count (and neither does watching 10 Things I Hate About You over a dozen times).

My favorite Shakespeare play:

I’d have to say my favorite Shakespeare play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, more for sentimental reasons than anything else. I’ve read it probably about 10 times and seen it performed 2 or 3. It was the first Shakespeare play I ever read, and I will never forget the day. It was 8th grade and our teacher told us we were going to do Shakespeare. She gave us copies of the book, saying she wasn’t sure if we would read all of it (because it was the end of the year and we were running short on time). I went home and promptly devoured the entire thing. I’ll never forget the way it made me feel. I sat on the floor of my bedroom (I remember the exact spot) and it filled me with pure joy. I went to school the next day and shot my hand straight up in the air when the teacher asked for volunteers to read. I wanted to be Helena. I got to be Helena. All was right with my 8th grade world. 10 years later, I’m currently teaching the play in my junior English class and loving every minute of it (though I can’t say the same of my students…).

Best Shakespeare production I’ve seen:

You can’t beat a Shakespeare play literally performed at the Globe theater in London. I saw Macbeth in June of 2013, and not only was it the most incredible Shakespeare performance I have ever seen, but it was an all-around incredible day as well. I was on study abroad in Bath, and 2 of the girls in my house had planned a trip to London on one of our free weekends. I asked if I could tag along with them, even though I didn’t have a ticket to the show. I tried my luck waiting in line an hour before curtain to see if they would release any tickets. Lucky for me, a staff member from the Globe walked down the line and asked me what my situation was – I had 2 friends with yard tickets and I was hoping to get one. She gave one to me, free of charge. And that wasn’t even the best part. Because it was such a last-minute trip, I didn’t bother looking into any information about the production prior to going. So when Billy Boyd came on stage as Banquo, that was it. Seeing the show with two other Lord of the Rings nerds who also hadn’t realized he was in the show…heads exploded. Our one regret was not having enough balls to approach the cast in the Swan pub that adjoins the theater after the show. They were enjoying a post-performance drink across the pub from us…the fact that they were all together chatting felt like a situation we shouldn’t interrupt for fangirling….

Final thoughts:

It’s interesting how Shakespeare has become a book lover’s icon, when really he should be a theater buff’s icon. I suppose the enormous role he played (pun intended) in shaping the modern English language makes people connect him to us bookish types. However, as I told my students when we began A Midsummer Night’s Dream this last week, Shakespeare is not meant to be read silently at your desks. He’s meant to be spoken, heard, chewed on, savored. He’s meant to be performed and watched, laughed at and cried at, together with an audience who shares in the same joys and sorrows as his timeless characters.

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At the Globe 2013 production of Macbeth – I had a cold and had spent the entire day walking around the British Museum…then stood for a 3-hour Shakespeare play. Do not recommend. Though I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. 🙂

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BONUS PIC: Me with a First Folio owned by my school, the University of Illinois. Which is actually not all that big of a deal compared to some of the other items UIUC has; there’s about 234 of them in the world. We’ve got some one-of-a-kind other rare books (shameless brag on my baller university library).

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7 thoughts on “All the world’s a stage

  1. Captain's Quarters says:

    I simply loved this post! I had to read all of the Bard’s work (and a ton of his contemporaries) in a graduate school intensive. One of the best classes of me life. I have seen 16 of his plays performed. My favorites were a production of Hamlet starring Simon Russell Beale, an all female As You Like It, and of course being a groundling to watch Two Noble Kinsmen. My first play was Julius Caesar in 8th grade. Been fascinated with his work ever since. So jealous of you are the Folio:)
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    It’s so cool how much you love Shakespeare! I’ve never read anything by him. I’m still pretty young and didn’t study in England, so I guess that’s my excuse, but I definitely want to read some of his stuff. I always thought he was really serious and boring, but more recently I’ve heard that he’s funny? Where would you recommend starting with his plays? x

    Liked by 1 person

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