Lists · Personal Great Books

A Project of Elizabethans

Allie’s Shakespeare Month is nearly half over, and, distracted reader that I am, I’ve spent more time with contemporary children’s lit than with the Bard. No more! I mean to remedy this problem this week, first by re-reading Twelfth Night. I finished my first reading of this lovely comedy on Friday, thought about posting, and promptly decided I needed to read it again first. I also pledge here, in writing so that you may all shame me once should I fail, to finish Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare this week. I don’t have anything better to do…

Reading the various posts this month on Shakespeare, his times, and his plays, and returning to his plays for myself, has prompted me to reaffirm to myself that I want to make a project of reading ALL of his work. I mentioned in my end of 2011 post that I wanted to focus on several areas this year, Shakespeare being one. I don’t expect that I can read his complete works this year, but I can certainly make a good stab at it!

A while back when I was researching for various project lists I was reminded of the various contemporaries of Shakespeare, once as famous as he was, but now largely forgotten. So I make this not just a project of Shakespeare, but a project of Elizabethans. For his contemporaries I have been more selective with my choices, although I always reserve the right to add (or delete) titles to my project.

All dates are approximate. Accurate documentation of when plays were first written—or even first performed—doesn’t always exist. (See here for Shakespearean play dates.) Dates of the poems are first publication dates.

  1. Kyd, Thomas: The Spanish Tragedy, or Hieronimo is Mad Again (1582-92)
  2. Marlowe, Christopher:
    1. Dido, Queen of Carthage (1586)
    2. Tamburlaine, Part 1 (1587)
    3. Tamburlaine, Part 2 (1587-88)
    4. The Jew of Malta (1589)
    5. Doctor Faustus (1589 or 1593)
    6. Edward II (1592)
  3. Shakespeare, William: Complete Works:
    1. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1589-91)
    2. Taming of the Shrew (1590-91)
    3. Henry VI, Part I (1591) – with other authors
    4. Henry VI, Part II (1590-91)
    5. Henry VI, Part III (1590-91)
    6. Titus Andronicus (1592)
    7. Richard III (1592-93)
    8. Venus and Adonis (1592-93) – narrative poem
    9. The Comedy of Errors (1594)*
    10. Edward III (1594)
    11. The Rape of Lucrece (1594) – narrative poem
    12. Love’s Labour’s Lost (1594-95)
    13. Richard II (1595)
    14. Romeo and Juliet (1595)*
    15. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)*
    16. King John (1596)
    17. The Merchant of Venice (1596)
    18. Henry IV, Part I (1596-97)
    19. Henry IV, Part II (1596-97)
    20. The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597-98)
    21. Henry V (1598-99)
    22. Much Ado About Nothing (1598-99)*
    23. Julius Caesar (1599)*
    24. As You Like It (1599-1600)*
    25. Hamlet (1599-1601)*
    26. The Phoenix and the Turtle (1601) – allegorical poem
    27. Twelfth Night (1601)
    28. Troilus and Cressida (1602)
    29. Measure for Measure (1603-04)
    30. Othello (1603-04)
    31. King Lear (1605-06)
    32. Timon of Athens (1605-06) – probably with Thomas Middleton
    33. Macbeth (1606)*
    34. All’s Well That Ends Well (1606-07)
    35. Antony and Cleopatra (1606-07)
    36. Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607) – probably with George Wilkins
    37. Coriolanus (1608)
    38. Sonnets (1609)
    39. The Winter’s Tale (1606-10)
    40. The Tempest(1610-11)
    41. Cymbeline (1610-11)
    42. Henry VIII (1613) – probably with John Fletcher
    43. The Two Nobel Kinsmen (1613) – with John Fletcher
  4. Jonson, Benjamin:
    1. Sejanus His Fall (1603)
    2. Volpone (1605-06)
    3. The Alchemist (1610)
    4. Catiline His Conspiracy (1611)
    5. Bartholomew Fair (1614)
  5. Background Sources
    1. Bryson, Bill: Shakespeare: The World as Stage (2007)
    2. Crystal, Ben: Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard (2010)

* Indicates a reread

As I post this, I realize that this is now the sixth project I’ve posted, and I haven’t made a dent in any of them. (Excepting two titles off of my Mysteries & Detective Fiction project, which is meaningless as I have another dozen or so I want to add.) Clearly, I’m a hopeless list-maker. But I find that I don’t have this compelling need to actually complete them. I enjoy looking at “best-ofs” or “greatests” and counting off how many I’ve read, taking note of titles and adding them to my own TBR, but I don’t feel in any way deficient that I haven’t read many or most of the titles. I’m not even feeling let down that I can’t seem to read anything from projects of my own design. But there is something so compelling to me about making lists and marking things off, done, finished. So despite my lack of strikethroughs, I keep posting, I keep creating. With my other planned focus on Antiquity this year, I should have a project list up and ready for that here soon as well. And perhaps this year I might begin to make a dent….if only I weren’t open to always adding new titles!

Of course, complicating my plans for reading, I’ve decided to take on a new challenge this year: movies. I’ve been keeping lists of movies I’ve wanted to see, once they landed on DVD, but somehow never manage to actually get around to watching them. My tastes for movies are as varied as books; I like the box office blockbuster (well, some) as well as a BBC costume drama or a small art film that never makes it to the local cineplex. Then Richard (Caravana de recuerdos) posted this week about the Caravana de recuerdos Foreign Film Festival and I realized it’s probably been two or three years since I’ve watched a foreign film. Richard’s definition: the director’s country of origin or residence is different than your own. By this definition, I could count The Lord of the Rings, or the latest Sherlock Holmes film, both of which I’ve watched in recent months, but I’ve always felt that to be properly “foreign” a film should be in a language other than my mother tongue.  So now I’ll complicate my life further by trying to add a few non-English language foreign films to the list for this year. Any suggestions are welcome!

Related to this, I’ve finally caved and signed up for Twitter. Related how? My tipping point was the discovery that the local independent theater—the only local movie theater to show art films which haven’t already been nominated for an Oscar (also known as the only local theater to show Jane Eyre this summer)—tweets its showtimes. Since I can’t remember to check their website regularly, it seemed reasonable to follow their account. Not that I need something else to keep track of!

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8 thoughts on “A Project of Elizabethans

  1. Okay, that’s it, I’m gonna have to post my movie list. I’ve had a film post and list in draft form on WordPress since October but I’ve been hesitant to post it because I wasn’t sure if it would seem too random or out of place on my blog. Then earlier this week I saw another post about film on TBM’s (50 Year Project) blog and now yours! I’ve been keeping track of films I’ve watched on Tumblr which is linked in my sidebar though I’ve never made mention of it. I’m very new to film but like you I’m finding that my tastes are varied. In French film, I love love love Jacques Tati and Francois Truffaut’s “Antoine Doinel” series, and in Swedish film – Ingmar Bergman, in Japanese film, I think I”m going to love Kurosawa though the only film I’ve seen of his is Dersu Uzala, which was beautiful. My husband was really into Fellini (Italian) for a while and I watched a few of those films when we first met but that’s been 10 years ago now and I hardly remember them. The only one I’ve seen recently is La Strada and I really love that one.

    I’ll try to polish it up over the next few days and post it – when I do, I’d love to know what you think.

    As for reading projects, there’s no way that I could possibly shame you with my poor track record! 🙂 I’ve decided that list making is an important part of the process. When I started my little blog, I knew nearly NOTHING about literature. So looking at published lists and formulating my own has been an important way for me to associate certain books with certain authors and time periods as well as learn why certain books are deemed important even before I read them. I don’t know if this is making any sense, but it’s like it helps to create the context for reading.

    1. I look forward to your movie list! I’ve only really been paying attention to film/movies in the last ten years or so, and there are so many I haven’t seen, both contemporary and classic. I’ve never even heard of the “Antione Doinel” series, so I’ll have to look that up. And Fellini! I can’t believe, now that I think of it, I’ve never seen any Fellini, what with my interest in all things Italian.

      Your thoughts on lists make complete sense to me. Some of these “best of” lists really do help provide some context for what is considered “great.” Even if I ultimately reject works on the lists, it can be very useful to see what is considered great or classic and then explore to understand the why. And sometimes to just plain discover books I’m not familiar with!

  2. I too need to finish Bryson and hope to read Twefth Night this week! Love the list!!! I plan to read a few eventually as well — Volpone and Christopher Marlowe.

    I’m so excited to see this project! 😀

    1. I need to finish too many things, too. But this is the year I’m supposed to ignore self-imposed obligations in the favor of enjoying my reading, on the theory that the reading will follow on its own! I’m currently in the middle of my second read of Twelfth Night and now I want to see it so badly!

  3. I love your project. The Elizabethan era is such a wonderful, intriguing period of time to study- especially because it holds such significance for English theater. That’s a really great list you have there, I’m looking forward to knowing how it goes 🙂
    I LOVED Bryson’s Shakespeare. I don’t think I ever truly realized how little I (and the world in general) knew about Shakespeare until I read it.

    1. I don’t really know all that much about Elizabethan England, but what little I do suggests that it’s a really interesting period. I look forward to learning more. I’ll certainly be posting about the plays as I make my way through them!

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