October 8th, 2008


Shakespeare: First Quarter

I started my Shakespeare project at the end of August, and have now got through nine of the 38 plays. So I probably won't finish this year; at this rate it will be some time in February 2009. Though I do have at least one transatlantic trip coming up, which may shorten the process.

The three best of the first quarter were (in reverse order) Richard III (would have been higher, but a bit too lengthy); The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a real discovery which I'm surprised is not better known; and best of all The Comedy of Errors, which I guess was the only one of this run that had made much impression on me before.

My least favourite was The Taming of the Shrew, where I just didn't like the basic concept. The basic concepts in Titus Andronicus are pretty unpleasant too, but it is not being marketed as a comedy. Love's Labour's Lost is half decent and half incomprehensible.

I'm taking a position on the three parts of Henry VI, which is that Part 2 was written first and then Part 1, with Part 3 last. Part 2 has too much sticking closely to the history books, and feels very much like a beginner's effort to extract drama from Holinshed. The other two parts feel more confident, and Part 3 clearly leads straight into Richard III. Indeed, Part 3 and Richard III are so much better that I rather feel Shakespeare must have been working on other stuff in between, perhaps some of the earlier comedies, or even his scene for Thomas More.

But basically, I have discovered that the reason these plays are classics is that they are (mostly) very good.