Starting at the End–The Tempest ⎜The Shakespeare Project

I was reading the introductory notes for the play and, immediately, I am throwing shade on a dubious English teacher I had. He told us Shakespeare’s son was called Amleth, ‘Hamlet with the h at the end’, he told us, ‘almost like omelette’, we chattered. Not even close! His son’s name was Hamnet. I am not impressed.

Now, back to what legit scholars have learnt. Based on clever contextual sleuthing, scholars worked out the years of Hamlet based upon the ‘vogue for children-acting troupes.’ Next, they worked out the placement of the rest of the plays. I’ll list them here in a creative infographic:

Timeline with details

A timeline of Shakespeare’s plays with historical context. // Made for you by me ❤

I spent quite a while searching for historical context of the approximate dates of the production of Shakespeare’s plays. I hope it’s obvious that 1603 marks the reign James I of England and VI of Scotland and the death of Elizabeth I. I recall studying Shakespeare in school and only getting brief ideas of context. My first year at uni did a rather terrible job at contextualizing Shakespeare’s present. Today, I started looking up different events around the dates and I was super intrigued. Tea was not a thing until almost the end of Shakespeare’s plays! Shakespeare’s time was rampant with european explorers of the east and west. But I wanted to make sure that I did put in some non-western historical events because history and our conception of the world should not be akin to an English rose sprouting from ye olde Englande. Rather, we should recall that the world existed and moved outside of this historical ego. I didn’t want my conception of Shakespeare’s time of production as solipsistic. This project isn’t *just* about reading Shakespeare. It’s about pushing the ways I see language and the way I see history and artistic production. It’s about not holding onto preconceptions of Shakespeare.

Rather irreligiously, I am beginning at the approximate end. I am beginning with The Tempest. It was the first in my collection, and I am not sure how I’ll progress from there. Very soon I’ll have to have a better idea of the next Shakespeare I’ll read, but for the next little while, I am going to enjoy where I’ve begun. I can read with tea.

Shakespeare I have already read & seen:
The Taming of the Shrew
Macbeth (one of my favourites)
Othello
(in secondary school, we rewrote this play with Othello’s secret samosa recipe instead of Desdemona’s handkerchief–we were hilarious)
Hamlet
Twelfth Night

Shakespeare I’ve seen:
Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Merchant of Venice (one of my favourites)
Much Ado About Nothing

I will be re-reading those I’ve read and reading those I’ve seen. I hope this means that I’ll have more of an excuse to return to London and watch as many Shakespeare plays as possible at the Globe Theatre. Once a groundling, always a groundling.

Thank you for all of your suggestions on where to begin my journey. It was helpful!

Heaps of Love,
WordPlay Xx

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8 thoughts on “Starting at the End–The Tempest ⎜The Shakespeare Project

    • Thank you for sharing! My deepest apologies for my late reply. I love it when literature and experiences are cross-generational. My dziadek (grandpa) bought my mom a collection of beautiful Charles Dickens books when she was young, and I ended up volunteering at the Dickens Musuem—although I didn’t know him, I feel like we were bound together by this experience and appreciation. Thanks again for sharing. xx

  1. This is awesome! I think our teachers in secondary school and university have to spend so much time simply teaching the elements of Shakespeare that there is very little time to indulge in historical context. Would love to see more of this. It’s amazing how much history can happen in twenty short years.

    • Hello! I’m sorry for the late reply! I do agree; it is difficult to give precise historical context. I also think that teenagers are at that age where they view the world through only their eyes and how they feel, so asking them to take in history can be hard for their developing brains. No offence at all to teens; I still feel like my conception of history changes the more I read and delve into it. So, I pass off some forgiveness there; I also did have really shite teachers. Regardless, I always felt my experience with Shakespeare somehow inform that time in my life, too. I think it was a very language-rich time in my life, and I want to feel that intimacy with words. It’s so beautiful.
      It actually startles me, when I look at history in the context of Shakespeare’s production. I remember studying the East India Company; that Queen Elizabeth granted it’s charter in 1600. Yet, when I contextualize it with Shakespeare and the Italian Renaissance, I feel my mind does somersaults and a conga line. Thanks for posting. Lots of love, Xx

  2. An admirable project. I was reminded by your graphic just how much the man wrote. Five or six plays a year, plus some sonnets. I’m reading Asimov now, another amazingly prolific writer. I guess they didn’t waste any time with blogging.

    • Hello! I do apologize for not responding sooner! Shakespeare totally was a prolific writer. It constantly blows my mind–especially, in the context of plagues, English politics, and the beginnings of a British global empire. I also wanted to draw myself back to considering that history isn’t something that is just Britiish, which is why I tried to include other cultures–or even the shock that tea, in Europe, only began to be a thing at the end of Shakespeare’s production. Although, I do know that other kinds of teas were made–tisanes, because it’s a huge tradition on both sides of my family. That blows my mind, that what we consider a traditional cup of tea–black tea–was in its inception.
      How is your Asimov reading going? I have really been thinking about getting into him. I feel with science fiction, that it has it’s own really unique history and development. Thanks for posting! Xx

      • What about coffee, which is much more important in the morning? Choclate also has an interesting history. As for Shakespeare, well, he is in a class by himself. Asimov continues to be very entertaining and instructive.

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