Month Two [A Summary]

As month two comes to a close, I’m beginnning to experience my first bout of “Shakespeare fatigue.”  I have never concentrated so hard on one writer.  And though he’s well worth the time and effort, there are days when I feel overwhelmed.

I’m also slightly behind schedule.  I need to keep a three-play-per-month pace to have a chance at reading all 38 plays within the year.  As of today, I have barely begun my 6th.  Luckily, it happens to be a fairly breezy one: Two Gentlemen of Verona.

With two months now under my belt, I’m starting to get a better sense not only about what the project is taking out of me, but what it’s more than giving back.  For example, I am shocked by how much I have learned about English history in preparation for the history plays.  It feels like an education unto itself, over and above the associations with Shakespeare.  Now when I hear the names Alfred the Great or Richard Lionheart, I perk up and look forward to knowing more about them.  Beowulf, the Song of Roland, tales of King Arthur and courtly love poetry have a whole new context and meaning for me.  It may sound silly, but I feel wiser in the best sense that education provides.  If for no other reason, this decision has already proven worthwhile.

There are days when I realize that I’m writing to the wind – soliloquizing, essentially – by keeping this odd public diary.  But the discipline is having an effect on my other writing.  A daily blog forces me to be on point and a lot less fussy about getting my work out there.

As for Shakespeare himself, I have learned much about his personal life thanks to the biographies by Peter Ackroyd and Stephen Grenblatt.  I have read far less criticism than I anticipated.  Isaac Asimov remains my primary resource for background material and should prove crucial through the history stretch.

I understand that what I’m doing won’t interest Shakespeareans and has little interest for the public at large.  I stand utterly in no man’s land, a neophyte bumbling his way through the catalog of the greatest writer of all time.

Be that as it may.  I must steel myself for the down periods.  This adventure is akin to sailing solo around the world.  At times the thrill of the challenge holds me spellbound.  But in dark moments I wonder what possessed me to leave home on such a fool’s errand.

I stare into some of the later plays like Cymbeline and the Tempest and shudder.  I am still too green, too unworthy, too unready to ascend their towering peaks.  Maybe by then I’ll feel differently.  For now, there is the immediate work at hand.

In the end, the journey is all.  I won’t know how Shakespeare changed me until I have completed the trip.  And there’s still a long, long way left to go.

 

The histories are nigh.  One more comedy, then into the breach I go.

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2 Responses to “Month Two [A Summary]”

  1. I understand those “dark moments,” having experienced them many times on an artistic journey. You will feel like it was worth it, in the end.

    • Thanks for the support! It gets to feeling like tunnel vision sometimes. I’m used to reading a bunch of different things simultaneously – but for the last two months, all roads have lead to Shakespeare.

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