Occupy Shakespeare

Although this blog will function something like a diary, charting the joys, sorrows and epiphanies of spending a year reading the works of Shakespeare during the 450th anniversary of his birth, I’m designing it in such a way that anybody could, in theory, hop on the bus (as it were) at any future point and begin their own year with a companion built right in.

I’m amazed and overjoyed to discover how many people from all walks of life admire and adore Shakespeare, yet feel either too intimidated to read him on their own or too brow-beaten to take him again in a class. He’s become very Masterpiece Theater-ish, encrusted with barnacles and slathered with Grey Poupon, an elitist sport best experienced in a fedora and smoking jacket.

That’s all very well and good for those who wish to consider him thusly, but let’s not forget that he was also the Stephen King of his age as well, with a little Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Joss Whedon to boot.

The miracle, of course, is that his works survive all levels of interpretation, from period pieces to modernization and deconstruction – and yet keep on chugging. I’m sure they will survive this blog…and worse.

What I’m striving for most of all is a return to wide-eyed wonderment, an approach that doesn’t discount or do-away with centuries of scholarship, but rather takes it down a peg or two and leaves room for everyone else to breathe.

Call it the Dead Poet Society Year of Shakespeare. So be gone, Mr. Jay Evans Pritchard (or whoever). I love ya, Mr. Bloom (especially Mr. Leopold Bloom). But it’s time for people to rise up and steal humanity’s greatest author back from stuffy museums and hallowed halls.

Call it Occupy Shakespeare, then. Call it whatever you like. Just commit yourself to reading him with fresh eyes and an open heart.

And above all, don’t be afraid.

Remember that everyone is welcome to join in on the Shakespeare discussion, here or wherever you happen to be (or not).

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