'Shakespeare For Every Day of the Year' edited by Allie Esiri MacMillan 2019 pp 146-159
So with the website to create and update, I had fallen considerably behind in the daily Shakespeare read. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I have my daily read books, whose main purpose is to get me started that day, and what better for the soul than a daily dose of Shakespeare? And yes, on the odd day, when the mind is not fully engaged, the Shakespeare seems pretty indecipherable, and when that happens I find it can be best just to let it go, and tell yourself there is always tomorrow.
Or sometimes I do face it head on and do further research to understand the passage more. Personally I always do this when it is a sonnet, as I have the excellent Don Paterson book 'Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets' (Faber and Faber 2010), which with its down to earth chatty style, suitable for the non academic or academic alike. It entirely picks out the sonnet's meaning and offers alternative interpretations made popular down the years.
'Shakespeare For Every Day of the Year' is a wonderful book. Each passage is introduced by Allie Esiri, and if the Shakespeare itself goes over your head, then at least this bit will not. It often offers some kind of justification for the particular passage being made available on that day and throws in facts about Shakespeare and his times, that appeals to the casual historian in me, as much as the poetry lover.
The passages themselves come from all of Shakespeare's oeuvre, the plays, the poems, and the sonnets, and cover all the famous moments as well as the obscure. Today I read pieces from the poem 'The Rape of Lucrece', the slightly more obscure play, 'Timon of Athens', and the very popular funny banter between Hal and Falstaff from 'Henry IV, Part 1'. I learned (or was reminded at least) that Falstaff was probably originally played by Will Kemp, Henry IV was born Henry Bolingbroke, and that Phillip Faulconbridge, Bastard, (from King John) is the fourth largest part in Shakespeare's canon !
Most days I do only have the one passage to read, but falling behind is no big deal, as it is always wonderful to immerse myself in Shakespeare occasionally. This bite size presentation of his work is perfect for me. I work on the principle that if I read it once, I put down one layer of understanding ready for when I read it again, and when I do then read it again I will understand it better, and put down a second layer of understanding.
I envy actors who learn a role from the inside out, learning every aspect of the meaning and possible meaning to a point where they can even offer their own interpretation. Such luxury isn't available for all of us who need to short cut to being offered other people's ideas, but I have found that eventually, if I watch or read plays often enough, as I have 'Macbeth', 'The Tempest', and 'A Midsummer's Night Dream', new doors of understanding finally do open!
Apologies if I am preaching to the converted.
This book is a great gateway to the Shakespeare drug, or a great way of taking two minutes out of the day if you are already a convert. Today's favourite piece...
From 'Sonnet 3' (on p.150, or April 6th).
'Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime:
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.'
The quote that is the title of the piece is King Henry V, no longer the youthful and fun loving Hal, but the King with kingly responsibilities spurning Falstaff once and for all in 'Henry IV, Part 2' (on p. 154, or April 9th).
Up to now all the blog posts have been done in silence, which is unusual. When I write what I was listening to when reading the poetry, or writing the blog, I call it my 'soundtrack'.
Today it was the latest in the series of LateNightTales', by Jordan Rakei, which actually only arrived on CD today. To trumpet its arrival I did also listen to the last two releases by Hot Chip and Khruangbin.
I am not 100% sure when the poetry reading actually began, but I definitely played the Jordan Rakei CD twice!