Friday, June 15, 2007

The Shakespeare Challenge

Okay, in keeping with my habit of stealing shamelessly from other bloggers I would like to create a reading challenge for myself. I've been conducting an informal one for the past several weeks that has me reading female authors. This came about because I looked at my reading list for the year and realized that I had only read male authors for the first quarter of 2007. So lately I've read: Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, Caroline Moorehead's biography of Martha Gellhorn, The Russian Revolution by Sheila Fitzpatrick, (this was a required reading but I'm including it anyway) and I am currently reading Gellhorn's Travels with Myself and Another. I have one more to choose to complete the five book cycle and I'm considering taking the plunge and trying Austen. I was bored to distraction by Pride and Prejudice in high school, but I hope, like so many other things that have come to me later in life, that I will now be equipped to understand Austen's contribution to literature. I'm considering Northanger Abbey, but I will be happy to take any suggestions.

So I've decided to make the next challenge more formal and take on a subject that has eluded me for all these years, William Shakespeare. Once again my main experience of Shakespeare comes from high school where we read the prerequisite Romeo and Juliet (ninth grade), Julius Caesar (tenth grade), and King Lear (twelfth grade). I was indifferent to Shakespeare throughout these readings, but it wasn't until two semesters ago, with the reading of Richard III, when I started to develop an irrational prejudice against the writer. I found myself asking, none to sanctimoniously, why do we hold this man up as the ultimate master of western literary tradition. Questioning Shakespeare in this way, I know, is tantamount to high treason, especially for an English major, and I just won't allow myself to reject his writing wholesale. I am ashamed to admit that I have not read Hamlet. This will be the first play I read in the challenge and the rest, I plan to read five, are up for grabs. I'm open to suggestions but I want to read at least one comedy and possibly two histories.

I hope Shakespeare and I find some common ground. I know I'm being naive in my opinion of him, and I hope to rectify this with a better appreciation of his work.


Emily Barton said...

Read A Comedy of Errors. One of the problems with Shakespeare is that his comedies always get slighted as being his "lesser" works. But he was a masterful comedy writer. This one is laugh-out-loud funny.

imichie said...

Okay I'll read COE. Good. I'll bet I'll like it.

linser said...

Dan says read "Macbeth" and watch "Throne of Blood" by Kurosawa. I personally always found it better to watch the plays than to read them. Although, "King Lear" really got to me when I read it.

imichie said...

Check, Macbeth's on the list. Makes sense with the Scottish theme and all.