Restarting the Canon

When I finished my third year of college at home last May, I had just written a junior paper on Shakespeare and was scrambling to come up with a topic for my senior thesis. Less than a month later, when it became clear that classes would be online, I decided to take a one-year leave of absence and stopped thinking about that research. After a summer with no live theater and no seminars on Early Modern literature, I began to feel a different kind of absence—the absence of Shakespeare.

So, to fill this gap of time, I’m going to reread the plays. My hope is now to experience the canon as a whole; a continuous body of work which changes stylistically over the course of Shakespeare’s career. Since it’s impossible to pin down the precise order that the plays were written and performed in, I’ll largely follow the chronology that Professor Marjorie Garber uses in her book Shakespeare After All. After reading each play, I’ll read the appropriate chapter in her exhaustive take on the canon, treating Shakespeare After All as my Virgil.

With this blog, I plan to capture some of my reactions, observations, and questions about the plays. As I begin, I’m especially excited to examine moments of music throughout the canon, think about Shakespeare’s adoption of folktale and folk theater in the plays, and consider how the changing theatrical technology of Early Modern England can inform performance on today’s digital stages.

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