Remembering 2008’s “Project: Shakespeare”

I’m not sure now what my original impetus was, but toward the end of 2007, I came up with the idea for a 2008 reading project, the goal of which was to read all of Shakespeare’s plays over the course of the year. I should probably confess right away that I did not complete the project, BUT I did make an honest effort that resulted in my getting through about 2/3 of them.

I created a schedule/syllabus that spread the reading over the year, which comes to about three plays a month. I found a trusted guide for my project in Isaac Asimov’s book, Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. This book includes all the plays and two of Shakespeare’s lyrical poems. It presents them in two volumes, in “chronological” order – the chronology in this case being that of the time of the setting of the plays. Creating the schedule was somewhat empowering, as “that’s only three plays a month!” didn’t seem so bad as looking at the huge, I mean HUGE, copy of The Complete Works at I have.

My scheme for reading was:
A) First read Asimov’s chapter on the play, to gain some background knowledge (this helped tremendously when I got to the ‘reading the play’ step, as I “knew what was going on” even if the language was difficult. B) Read the actual play
C) seek out other commentary/discussion on the play. (eventually, for this step, I settled on a book, Shakespeare After All, by Marjorie Garber, which I found to be a scholarly yet helpful companion to my project.

If anyone is interested in viewing the remnants of the online chronicle I almost kept for project Shakespeare, the ruins of its web page still reside in the subdirectories of my book club’s web page at the following URL.

I thought that, once completed, the project could be continued or “refreshed” with subsequent three year projects, where I would review and revisit the plays at a more leisurely pace of one a month, completing the entire set every three years, and so on. I have also since learned that Isaac Asimov also wrote a similar “guidebook” for the bible. I bet that would make interesting reading as well. I also, just this year, discovered a website where an erstwhile blogger and Shakespeare fan was working on a “38 Plays in 38 Days” project. Now THAT is ambitious.

What about you? Do you devise reading projects and goals for yourself or you read more ‘randomly,’ picking up whatever strikes your fancy?

Sent from my iPad

1 Comment

  1. Allie said,

    August 17, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Ambitious indeed! My own blog is my own kind of project and I can say that it is certainly draining. I mean, sometimes my head physically hurts after reading one of the heavy tomes. And I am only 54 books in out of 250 after a year of doing this, but at least I am making some kind of progress, right?

    I have plans for future reading projects when I finish my current one. I do want to add the rest of Shakespeare on and finish up his plays (I think I have 15 or so on my current list). I also want to read the Bible, and finish some backlogs of authors I enjoy. I love these kinds of personal challenges. They make reading more fun, and I am exposing myself to things I would have never gotten to otherwise.


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