Friday, November 02, 2012

What's the last thing you learned about Shakespeare?

So yesterday I'm looking at one of my books (an old Arden edition of The Tempest), and a thought comes to mind that often prevents me from posting stuff.  It goes a little something like this:  "If I flip through that and learn something, and I post it, then most of the people who read that are going to say, 'Yup. Knew that. Now we can discuss our opinions on the relative value of that information and what it might mean to a bigger picture.'"  In other words, I tend to think that when *I* learn something, everybody else already knew that thing, and I'm just catching up.  I convince myself that if you study Shakespeare at all, then you basically "know" everything there is to know, and spend the rest of your time discussing what it means, if that makes sense.

Hence my question.  When's the last time you actually *learned* a *fact* about Shakespeare or his works?  Not new interpretations or angles for looking at a scene.  I mean things like, "Until just now I didn't really realize that Hamlet's final O groans are in the Folio text.  I thought they were in the bad quarto."  (This is a true example.)

Convince me that you all haven't memorized every spelling and punctuation choice made in every version of every play.  When's the last time you got to do have that moment that I clearly have regularly where you get to learn a new thing?


kj said...

This happened a while ago, but it's what springs to mind. When I read James Shapiro's Contested Will, I realized for the first time that an inventory of Shakespeare's incidental belongings once existed--one that was separate from the will.

But I'm also constantly learning things while teaching them--both by noticing them and from student questions, comments, and insights.

The depth of the plays is unfathomable.


GTeedle said...

Probably that there's no portrait we can be SURE is him--though I have a feeling about the cheeky, more sensual one.

As for the last thing I learned FROM, as opposed to ABOUT, the plays, it's a simple gem from The Winter's Tale:

"...o'er and o'er divides him
'Twixt his unkindness and his kindness--th' one
He chides to hell, and bids the other grow
Faster than thought or time."
-Camillo on Leontes, IV iv 543-46

LMH said...

last year I was teaching Hamlet and Lear at the same time to different classes. I was dazzled and humbled by the depth of each play, and decided that the only thing that held Hamlet up as the best was the poetry. The wildness of Lear was hard to absorb, it was so powerful. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it again. And my students reacted too-just from the intensity on the side of the children. We all felt together about Lear. I had given lip service to the Bard's understanding of human nature, but to be given this truth in a room with 29 young people...what a gift