Well, I decided I wanted to be able to participate in “Project the Second” conversation over on the Facebook group, so I leapfrogged past a couple unread works* to jump into Hamlet with everyone else. Well not quite with everyone else. The schedule starts that play on April 19th, and I was still finishing up with King John.
(I may be willing to skip unread works, but I am not constitutionally able to jump out of a half-read play in order to catch up with the cool kids!)
So I started Hamlet on April 23rd, which should have let me stay mostly on track. Instead, I am once again behind. The group moved onto Lucrece yesterday, and I am still stuck between Acts 2 and 3. Exactly where I’ve been since Sunday night.**
Oh well. Whenever I read the remaining three acts,*** I’ll jump back into the schedule from that particular pier.
To recap from yesterday: inductions are a thing in Elizabethan drama, and Taming of the Shrew starts out with one of ’em that features drunkard and beggar Christopher Sly.
Here’s the bare-bones recap. Lord (with hunting party) stumble across a sleeping Sly and decides to play a practical joke on him. So when Sly wakes up again, he’s been installed and dressed up as lord of the manor, with all assembled (including the true Lord pretending to be a servant) catering to Sly’s wishes and rejoicing that their “noble lord” is come out of the possession/insanity that has ruled his faculties for some dozen years or so. “Her Ladyship” (actually one of the Lord’s pages in disguise) encourages “her husband”
For so your doctor’s hold it very meet,
Seeing too much sadness hath congealed your blood
And melancholy is the nurse of frenzy.
Therefore they thought it good you hear a play
And frame your mind to mirth and merriment,
Which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.
The pair sits down at the edge of the stage and then the real play begins.
One of the fun pieces of these few months in Project the Second is the chance to contemplate the different levels of relationship I have with different titles in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. So far, I’ve read plays that I’ve read before but never seen (Julius Caesar), plays I’ve read and seen before (Titus, Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night), plays I’ve read and seen and taught before (R&J, Richard 3), and plays I’ve neither read nor seen before (2 of the 3 Henry 6s).
And then there was the one play that I’ve seen performed but have never actually read: Taming of the Shrew.
Now, according to my rules of engagement for the first Shakespeare Project, that shouldn’t actually happen. Part of my whole system here is that once I secure tickets for a performance where I’ll be collecting a new play, I read the play in question. I want to have enough basic familiarity with the plot and characters that I’m able to appreciate the performance at a deeper level.
Now, I collected Shrew early enough in the Project that I can’t recall, all these years later, why I didn’t take the time to read the play. (Maybe I thought I had enough familiarity with plot and character through seeing the Cole Porter and Moonlighting adaptations?)
Whatever my initial reasons, the lacuna in my reading knowledge of Shrew became abundantly clear at the very beginning of the play’s prologue, which is marked by the entrance of Christopher Sly.
*record scratch* Who?!?