What ho. Today, it seems, it begins. The madness.

A group of intrepid people are attempting to read all of Shakespeare's plays in only thirty-eight days. Here's a link: http://www.shicho.net/38/

Now this is insanity of the first water (even the name smacks of a horror movie) so obviously I'm severely tempted.

The number of the plays, I notice, is thirty-eight. This includes the late collaboration with Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen. As a bonus there's the slightly iffy case Edward III, which I haven't read or at least can't recall having read. The attribution to Shakespeare isn't universally accepted but portions of it may well have been penned by the Swan of Avon. Who wrote the rest of it - meaning the rubbish bits - remains unclear.

Edmund Ironside is noticeably absent. Around twenty or twenty-five years ago it was widely trumpeted that Edmund Ironside was indeed a lost play by Shakespeare, nowadays not so much. I read it when it first came out - as by Shakespeare - but honestly can't remember much of it. So it probably made no immortal impression with its deathless blank verse or its spectacular plotting. I really have to re-read it and make up my own mind about it and especially about who wrote it. Or the pertinent fact may well be who didn't write it. There don't seem to be many editions out and about, maybe there's only the very one I read around 1986 or so. Edward III is quite definitely another must-read.

This is what my trusted Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964 has to say about Edward III: "An anonymous historical play published by Cuthbert Burby in 1596 as 'The True Raigne of King Edward the Third: As it hath bin sundrie times plaied about the Citie of London'. There is no external evidence of Shakespeare's authorship save its ascription to Shakespeare in the play-list of Rogers and Ley (1656). Capell reprinted it in his Prolusions in 1760, and described it as 'thought to be writ by Shakespeare', on the grounds that he was the only man who could have written so well in 1595. Tennyson agreed with Capell, and Swinburne disagreed. There seem to be two hands in the play, one of which may be Shakespeare's. The best writing is in Act II and IV, iv. The line 'Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds' occurs in II, i as well as in Sonnet 94. But we cannot assign any part in the play to Shakespeare with any confidence on the basis of internal evidence only."

It would indeed seem to me that the quotation from the sonnet speaks against Shakespeare's authorship of the play. On the other hand it may well have been an inside joke or a dig at Shakespeare by the play's other author.

About Edmund Ironside Halliday has not a sausage to say. Fair enough.

Maybe this will be my tiny contribution to this delightful Shakespearean March madness - reading and/or re-reading the two dubious newcomers Edmund Ironside and Edward III. And announcing to the yet unknowing world what I think about their literary pedigree. I also have J.L. Carrell's new Shakespeare thriller The Shakespeare Curse to tackle. This time around Carrell does a number on Macbeth. It's a hefty tome but could be amusing. If, that is, one as a reader is willing to overlook the somewhat verbally challenged prose the authoress, for reasons best known to herself, appears to favour.

Good luck to all those brave enough to take on Old Will - I salute you: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!


Ingrid said...

There are already a few people talking about whether we should add on Edmund Ironside and a few others - and perhaps the sonnets in order to stretch the project out until the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth/death or baptism.

Personally, I'm quite curious about reading some of the apocrypha after going through this whirlwind tour of the canon. Will those of us who aren't Shakespeare scholars be able to develop any sense (fuzzy and unscientific as it might be) of Shakespeare's voice - or the lack thereof?

No casual reading of mine will lead to any remarkable contribution to questions of authorship, but I am purposefully avoiding reading any details about who-wrote-what in Edward III so that I can approach the text without bias and then see how my 'conclusions' compare with established scholarship.

Thanks for posting - the questions of which plays to chose and in what order to read them were big ones for me!

PS said...

Hopefully reading the entire Canon in so short a time will give you something of a supernatural feel for Shakespearean syntax, dialogue and plotting!