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Fox's Miscellany

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My Shakespeare project

I bought The Shakespeare Collection, DVDs of the so-called "Bardathon" series of BBC productions of all thirty-seven of William Shakespeare's plays, which were broadcast between 1978 and 1985.

Scholars have no way of knowing the exact dates when the plays were written and first performed - and opinions vary. Arguably, Shakespeare didn't so much write his plays, as re-write them: none of his plots is wholly original. His genius lay in re-writing and adapting elements of the dramatic and historical creations of others (in whole or part), to produce plays that would become immortal works of art. He no doubt composed more than one at the same time, on occasions. He was a working dramatist and may well have made amendments on an ongoing basis, as he received feedback, say from members of his audience or the players in the theatrical companies in which he worked.

BBC Shakespeare collection discs

I say I've bought "all" the plays, but there were others. No texts survive for Love's Labour's Won (circa 1595) and Cardenio (c. 1612); and three other plays have been accepted into the Shakespeare canon by scholars since the end of the BBC series. It's now acknowledged that he made significant contributions to Edward III (c. 1592), Sir Thomas More (c. 1595) and The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613).

So ... below and to the right is the order of viewing (and estimated dates of composition) suggested by the BBC and it seems to make sense. I've now viewed them all; and at my leisure I'm watching them again - and writing reviews in this order (note links to the reviews I've completed so far):

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (c. 1590)

The Taming of the Shrew (c. 1590)

Henry VI, Part 1 (c. 1591)

Henry VI, Part 2 (c. 1591)

Henry VI, Part 3 (c. 1592)

Richard III (1593)

The Comedy of Errors (c. 1592)

Titus Andronicus (1594)

Love's Labour's Lost (c. 1595)

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)

Richard II (1595)

Romeo and Juliet (c. 1595)

The Life and Death of King John (1596)

The Merchant of Venice (1596)

Henry IV, Part 1 (1597)

The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597)

Henry IV, Part 2 (1598)

Much Ado About Nothing (1598)

Henry V (1599)

Julius Caesar (1599)

As You Like It (1600)

Hamlet (1600)

Twelfth Night (1601)

Troilus and Cressida (1602)

Measure for Measure (1604)

Othello (1604)

All's Well That Ends Well (1605)

King Lear (1605)

Macbeth (1606)

Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607)

Timon of Athens (1607)

Coriolanus (1608)

The Winter's Tale (c. 1610)

Cymbeline (c. 1611)

The Tempest (1611)

Henry VIII (1613)

I've got more than a passing acquaintance with some of the plays, having (for instance) acted in a school staging of Twelfth Night and seen a brilliant production of it at Stratford; having seen Macbeth, Hamlet (at Roundhouse) and The Tempest (professional outdoor production in school grounds); having taught The Merchant of Venice to GCSE students; having studied Macbeth, King Lear and The Winter's Tale, academically; and having seen or heard various others on TV or radio, some on more than one occasion.

William Shakespeare

But ... vast tracts of the Shakespeare's work were unknown to me. So I've put that right and watched the whole lot in one Bardic binge.

One key attribute of the rather well-engineered BBC box set is that every production offers the option of subtitles. This is surprisingly helpful on occasions, especially when used in conjunction with the 'Pause' button on the remote, a facility which Shakespeare could never have envisaged, of course, and from which his audiences too might have benefitted. When an actor rattles out prose at quick-fire speed for dramatic or comic effect, it invariably works in the context of the play; but rewinding and drinking-in the sublime poetry ensures a fuller appreciation of his genius.

So, my sole objective here has been and remains to record my reactions to, and enhance my knowledge of, all of Shakespeare's plays. What other people think about this or indeed about Shakespeare is up to them! But stay tuned if you'd like to read my 21st century consumer's reactions to the works of the greatest dramatist and poet the English language has produced thus far.


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