"When that I was and a little tine boy,
With hey ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day."
So begins the clown's song at the end of "Twelfth Night," which is my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies. I'm in the middle of re-reading it as I gave myself the Complete Arkangel Shakespeare for Christmas. This week I've been playing the "Twelfth Night" CD and following along in my Riverside Shakespeare. I started doing that on occasion years ago when I lived in the city and tried to see a lot of the Bard's work. (The free Shakespeare in the Park was especially fun. In the old days, you'd have to wait on line for tickets for hours and hours, which was part of the experience.) It often helped to know the play a little bit, so I would look for recorded versions beforehand.
Sometimes the audio strategy backfired. I remember listening to a splendid "Two Gentlemen of Verona" on tape, and then the live production sagged in comparison. On the other hand, I still recall with fondness an Off Off Broadway version of "Measure for Measure" in a tiny theater next to a loading dock in Tribeca. For a long time afterward, I kept a quote from the play on my desk: "Our doubts are traitors,/And makes us lose the good we oft might win,/by fearing to attempt."
Here's my plan. We'll see if it works out. Read and listen to a play, and then rent a DVD of a good production. And, of course, seek out live professional performances when I can. Since I'm not in the middle of London or New York, I will have to look a little harder for those. After "Twelfth Night," I'll move on to "Richard II" (love that "royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle" speech) and then tackle "Henry V." And keep going after that, of course. Why do any of this? I think you can't see, hear, or read too much Shakespeare. That's all.
"A great while ago the world begun,
With a hey ho, the wind and rain,
But all that's one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day."
The weekly roundup of other Poetry Friday posts hies over to my friend Becky's place, Farm School, on January 19th.
If you have a favorite book about Shakespeare or a favorite production or DVD, please do leave a comment. I'd love to include some criticism and biography in my reading. (I have Harold Bloom's door-stopper and Northrop Frye on Shakespeare.) In March my pals at Constant Reader on GoodReads discuss "Romeo and Juliet." Stop by!