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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