I like Shakespeare. Whether that’s because I love theatre and plays or because I’ve been conditioned to believe that he is one of the biggest literary figures in British history, I don’t know. I have always been intrigued by the man, and his works but I still find it awkward to call myself a fan.
From the first moment I found out I was going to be studying Shakespeare (around the age of fourteen/fifteen) I was determined that I was going to give him a fair chance. All of my friends around me had already dismissed him – probably due to negative connotations around the name “Shakespeare”, but I was going to try my best to like his work. We studied Macbeth as our first Shakespeare and the only thing I can remember about “studying” Shakespeare for the first time was watching various TV/film adaptations of Macbeth, and from what I can recall they were of varying quality.
So, I didn’t necessarily have the best introduction to Shakespeare and for a few years I remained indifferent – deciding that I couldn’t possibly form an opinion on the man after studying only one of his many pieces of work. However, a few years down the line I found the play which made me love Shakespeare. When I started my English literature A Level, I discovered I would be studying King Lear – a play by Shakespeare which I had only perhaps heard in passing. It took me
about a year a while to get into it properly, but after seeing a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company, I got it. I had found the play which acted as a door, welcoming me into the wonderful world of Shakespeare.
Since then I’ve seen various plays, read a few of them and continued to enjoy Shakespeare’s work. Fortunately I live close to a Shakespeare Company who put on a couple of his plays each year, and usually I see at least one of them. I have the plays I consider to be my favourites – King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing. Every time I see a new play I want to read it and brush up on my general knowledge. One of modules I picked for university next year focuses on Shakespeare. I have three editions of his complete works. My copy of King Lear has been revisited so often that it is held together with tape.
So, you’d think I have no qualms in calling myself a Shakespeare fan.
That is most definitely not the case. I just can’t do it.
Somebody only in the last week asked me if I was a fan of Shakespeare. I replied with, “from what I’ve seen and read, yes I like his work,” but I didn’t call myself a fan and there are a whole array of reasons as to why I say this.
Some of these things are not really in my control. For example, the ongoing debate that Shakespeare did not actually write these plays, and in fact there were written by perhaps Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon or even a group of writers. However, unless something groundbreaking is uncovered, that isn’t going to change. For all we know, there could be a huge question mark over who penned these pieces of work for years to come. Generally speaking, this doesn’t worry me frequently – honestly, I find the whole business rather intriguing.
What does get to me frequently is that I don’t actually know that many Shakespeare plays. I could name quite a lot of them but I don’t actually know the plots well enough to recall them coherently. I made a list and there’s about five plays I feel I could accurately recall the plots from – although it would take a while to get through them – and then, there are a few which I could have a go at, but I would struggle. This is what gets to me. How could I possibly call myself a fan if I can’t even recall the plot of the majority of Shakespeare’s works?
I realise this mentality is not good and obviously you can absolutely be a fan of an author, writer, artist, person without knowing the entirety of their works! If you like something a person has done, you can like them – it doesn’t make you any more or any less of a fan. If you have read the entirety of a person’s works, that doesn’t make you superior over someone who has only read a few.
And I know this. So why on earth can’t I get it into my head? I don’t know, but I definitely know I’m going to work on giving myself the right to call myself a Shakespeare fan because I guess, at the end of the day, I am. I intend of expanding my knowledge surrounding Shakespeare and read/watch more of his plays. I have begun planning out a Shakespeare series of blog posts, which I hope to begin soon. I know I want to learn more about his life, and hopefully a planned trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon will give me the chance to do that.
I’m not really sure how to conclude this post other than saying that yes, my knowledge of Shakespeare is limited, and yes I think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a tad overrated, and yes, the language can be hard to get your head round (I certainly still struggle), and yes William Shakespeare might not have even written some of these plays but regardless of that I am a fan of the Bard.
I am a fan of William Shakespeare and I will continue to be so.
I have experienced this mentality with other authors and creators and please let me know if you have because I think it would be an interesting conversation to have, and perhaps one we should be having more often.