Month Three: A Summary

After month two, I confessed to experiencing a bit of “Shakespeare fatigue.”  I had been hitting the material hard, coming at it from as many different angles as possible.  The downside? My own writing suffered and I felt conflicted, wanting to produce my best efforts on both fronts.

Now, at month three, I feel refreshed.  A major decision to pursue the historical plays in chronological order, rather than the order in which Shakespeare wrote them, has turned out to be transformational.  My eyes have been opened in particular to England in the middle ages and the development from feudalism to the Renaissance.

In the coming days, I will update my progress on Shakespeare’s biographies.  I’m excited about starting Henry IV and pushing on toward the sonnets, poems and major tragedies to come.  I’m only one quarter of the way through the year.  There is much work – as well as a major celebration – on the near horizon.

The biggest impact Shakespeare has had on me personally is to change the way I view drama, whether it be on stage, in movies or on TV.  I’m a lot harder to please, I think.  Some might even say cranky.  I can’t help but compare what I encounter to Shakespeare – and of course the majority of that will wind up lacking.  I have unwittingly set the bar ever higher, just because Shakespeare has become an everyday phenomenon in my life.  I brush my teeth thinking about Othello or Titus or Richard II.  I go to sleep with thoughts of Desdemona.  It’s hard to all of a sudden just let that go.

As I noted previously, Shakespearean language becomes more familiar even when the exact meaning of archaic expressions remains elusive.  I bother with footnotes less, depend on context to provide the gist and continue reading.  There are times when I need to parse a phrase or delve into research material to explicate a contextual reference; that’s because Shakespeare draws from such a wide pool of knowledge and employs a vaster working vocabulary than any other writer who ever lived.  He invents words, spins them in novel phrases with metaphorical and poetical panache.  I scramble to make sense of much of it.  But on the whole I feel freer to savor sounds as if basking in a foreign language or sitting by a babbling brook.  Somehow the overall meanings manage to trickle through.

I seldom doubt whether the project has personal significance, but I have become skeptical whether the blog makes any sort of difference to others.  That makes it hard sometimes to stake out the necessary time and space to give each entry my all.  I wanted the positive pressure of committing to a daily task with public accountability on a highly-visible blog…but I failed to grasp how even that might not prove incentive if nobody shows up to read what I’ve done.

That’s not the internet’s fault.  I simply haven’t produced content that people care about.  Maybe that means I need to rethink my strategy.  Or maybe it’s the format.  Or it could be my voice.  I don’t know exactly.  It’s another barrier I have to push through.

I care a lot.  Maybe I get too wrapped up on whether what I’m doing is connecting to others.  I get excited when people plug in and we share a virtual connection through Shakespeare’s words.  I wish sometimes that I had set the whole year aside for only Shakespeare.  That would be my advice to anybody considering a similar project: take the entire 365 days and turn it into a book or documentary or diary.  Don’t add it to whatever else you have going on or you may find yourself pressed from two many competing priorities.  Shakespeare demands the best of our intellect and our passion.  Doing this halfheartedly is almost worse than not bothering at all.

Here’s to the next quarter, I guess.  Spring has sprung.  One more month and I begin the sonnets, poems and Romeo and Juliet!

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