They say it's your birthday…

shakesbdayToday, April 23rd,  is  recognized as William Shakespeare’s birthday.  Baptismal records at Holy Trinity parish church in Stratford show an entry on April 26, 1564 and it is generally accepted that he was born three days prior.

In honor of William’s 445th birthday, I’d like to know how many of his 37 plays and/or 154 sonnets you’ve actually read.  While in college, I had an opportunity to study his works for three semesters with a terrific professor.  As a result, I navigated about one-third of the first folio.  

Despite what my students think, I don’t often curl up in a leather club chair near the hearth with a dusty tome of Shakespeare’s works–nor does my husband join me, donning a smoking jacket, deerstalker cap, and pipe.  The plays were written to be performed and as much as I enjoy reading them, they really come alive on the stage. 

So, what Shakespeare have you read?  Did you leave him safely behind you after school or do you check in with him every once in a while?  Have you seen any of the plays performed live?  I’ve seen a few performances at Shakespeare in the Park–free summer performances in Central Park–and a few of the plays at other theaters.


  • At 2009.04.23 08:59, Anastasia said:

    Well. Er. I don’t think I’ve read an entire Shakespeare play, but I have read half of four different ones! Um. (My Shakespeare prof sucked?)

    I think I got the farthest with Macbeth, though. I actually liked that one!

    • At 2009.04.23 09:57, Hayden Tompkins said:

      I’m going to sound like a total heathen.

      I like Shakespeare best when getting reinterpreted by Baz Luhrman!

      Really, I much prefer watching the movies to reading the plays and sonnets.

      • At 2009.04.23 11:45, vivienne said:

        It is also St George’s Day in Britain – so I think Shakespeare unfortunately gets forgotten on his birthday in his country of origin. St George has taken over.

        • At 2009.04.23 12:35, Stephanie of Stopbouncing said:

          You lost me at Shakespeare.

          (no, really, not a fan… too much research needed to enjoy)

          It’s cool, I’ll tie myself up this time.

          • At 2009.04.23 12:43, veronica said:

            I think the last time I read Shakespear I was in school. I keep meaning to read more, but I just haven’t, though I do have a very beautifully leather-bound “Complete Plays.”

            All the way through I’ve read “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “King Lear,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” I’ve seen the movie of each of those (minus “King Lear” and adding “Othello”) and seen the play of “Twelfth Night.”

            I also saw clips of a ’60’s version of “The Tempest” in a lit class in college. We didn’t read the entire play, just abit. And we only watched this clip to make fun of the costuming. Ferdinand was pretty much just wearing a leotard. No pants, but instead he had gogo boots. Very classy.

            • At 2009.04.23 13:06, claire said:

              I’ve read Hamlet, King Lear, and The Merchant of Venice in school. I’ve read a comicbook version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream around that time as well. Have seen films of Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s about it.

              Oh and the sonnets, I’ve read all of them and love them. Will be reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June.

              • At 2009.04.23 13:27, thedailydish said:

                I’ve read many of his plays – the comedies and tragedies – NOT the historical ones.

                Have also seen many of the same performed, some live – some movies. Saw Titus Andronicus at the Globe in Stratford when I was younger. Also visited the tourist sites – Shakespeare’s home, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, etc.

                My grandmother slapped me across the face when I got pissed about having to do the tour. Can’t forget that!

                • At 2009.04.23 13:48, Care said:

                  I think I’ve only read Romeo&Juliet and Macbeth. I’ve seen a few of the movies, a couple more of the plays and must say that the last Shakespeare in the Park (but I can’t remember WHICH play!) I was struck by how many expressions we use daily that are Shakespearean….. Sorry, can’t think of any examples off the top of my head (is that one?!)

                  • At 2009.04.23 15:30, Rose City Reader said:

                    Glad I found your blog, or I would have missed the party! It seems I was always stuck in a Shakespeare-centric class in high school and college. I much prefer seeing them to reading them because they really com alive when performed well. My favorite class was while on a study abroad program in England where the entire class was to go see Shakespeare plays. Between that and several trips to the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon, I’ve seen more than my fair share.

                    I’ve seen: The Merry Wives of Windsor; Much Ado About Nothing; The Merchant of Venice (starring Ben Kingsley as Iago – even though it was from the nose bleed seats); As You Like It; The Taming of the Shrew; All’s Well That Ends Well; Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Richard III; one of the Henry plays, but I can’t remember which; Troilus and Cressida; Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet

                    I’ve read: Love’s Labour’s Lost; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; As You Like It; The Taming of the Shrew; Twelfth Night; Romeo and Juliet; Julius Caesar; Macbeth; Hamlet; Othello; Antony and Cleopatra

                    • At 2009.04.23 15:51, Holley said:

                      I would be hardpressed to give an exact accounting of all I have read (as an English major) so I’ll just mention a few of my favorites:
                      Romeo and Juliet
                      A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                      The Taming of the Shrew
                      Titus Andronicus
                      Sonnet 130

                      • At 2009.04.23 17:40, mari said:

                        I love Shakespear’s plays.

                        Let’s see…I have read the following.

                        Romeo and Juliet
                        A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                        Much Ado About Nothing
                        The Taming of the Shrew
                        Julius Caesar
                        The Tempest

                        Possibly more but can’t remember. 🙂

                        • At 2009.04.23 17:52, Susan @ Reading Upside Down said:

                          Love Shakespeare. I remember reading Comedy of Errors at a very young age and just falling in love with it (as silly as it is).

                          Other favourites I’ve read include: Othello, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and The Merchant of Venus. Love the sonnets as well and have seen several movie adaptations of these and other Shakespeare plays as well as a few Bell Shakespeare Company performances.

                          I went with some friends a few years ago to see “the Complete Works of Shakespeare” as a 2 hour play. Very amusing.

                          Got to love The Bard.

                          • At 2009.04.23 18:17, pannonica said:

                            William who?

                            I’ve read maybe about ¼ of the plays, seen only a few in person, seen some film versions and tend to enjoy the less traditional versions of those (e.g. Hamlet with Ethan Hawke, Kurosawa’s Ran and Throne of Blood, Scotland, PA).

                            Read about ¾ of the sonnets, have forgotten most of them, should reread them.

                            Care: Not only is it surprising how many everyday expressions were birthed by the Bard, but so many of the ones that sound as if they should have were conceived by Cervantes. They are giants.

                            • At 2009.04.23 20:36, Meredith from thinkthinks said:

                              Happy Birthday Bard!

                              I did a renaissance drama subject at Uni, so have read a lot of Shakespeare as well as some of his contemporaries. I confess I mostly took the class because a play a week seemed easier than a(nother) novel a week! Luckily I enjoyed it. The same approach to a Romantic Poets subject backfired, as I discovered a deep and abiding hatred for poetry. 🙂

                              So: 17 plays read all up.

                              Probably a dozen or so sonnets. I’d have to re-read through to count them…

                              • At 2009.04.23 23:59, Jena said:

                                Julius Caesar
                                Romeo and Juliet
                                Richard III
                                As You Like It
                                Measure for Measure
                                The Merchant of Venice
                                A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                                Much Ado About Nothing
                                The Taming of the Shrew
                                The Tempest
                                Twelfth Night
                                Two Gentlemen of Verona
                                The Winter’s Tale
                                + all the sonnets

                                I think that’s right. Is RIII the only history I’ve read? Hmm. You’d think I would’ve read more than that one.

                                • At 2009.04.24 01:28, bybee said:

                                  I gave my students the day off for Shakespeare’s birthday…no really…it’s midterm week. But I told them it was his birthday.
                                  I’ve read:
                                  A few of the sonnets
                                  Julius Caesar
                                  King Lear
                                  Richard II
                                  Richard III
                                  Henry the IV, part I
                                  Antony and Cleopatra
                                  A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                                  12th Night
                                  The Tempest
                                  As You Like It

                                  Never have read MacBeth…should rectifiy that!

                                  • At 2009.04.24 09:00, Megan said:

                                    Hmm. Well. Because I love lists, I shall make one right now!

                                    • Romeo & Juliet
                                    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
                                    • Julius Caesar
                                    • Richard II
                                    • Richard III
                                    • Henry the IV, Part I
                                    • Henry the IV, Part II
                                    • Venus & Adonis

                                    And I’ve read a ton of the sonnets… if not all of them. Hey, I got a BA in English Literature! I don’t think you can graduate from an English program in this country (or any other country where they speak/teach English?) without spending a little time with the Bard. I took two courses completely devoted to his plays, and one to his plays and sonnets.

                                    I’ve performed in several adaptations of his plays… but that sounds way more interesting than it actually was. They were — ahem — high school plays. 🙂 Heh. I was a fairy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of my favorite roles… and Juliet in that other play. You know. Juliet and someone? 🙂

                                    I went to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre in London two years ago and saw the tail end of a show… but it was a modern play just being performed there. Still cool, though. And the show ended just before it started to rain! Hooray!

                                    • At 2009.04.24 17:02, pannonica said:

                                      I’ve heard –no fooling– that Shakespeare is brilliant in translated German. I’m not fluent enough in that language to know.

                                      (Required, will not be published)

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