|A possible portrait of Shakespeare. Click the image to see the Wikipedia entry regarding its provenance and authenticity.|
We, the readers of Shakespeare in the early twenty-first century, and born to the English language, are perhaps the most fortunate audience since he wrote his plays four hundred years ago. Our language has not (yet) departed so much from Elizabethan English that we can no longer understand Shakespeares text — anyone with even modest exposure to the English of King James will be able to get through much of Shakespeare easily. And we can share the plays and study them over the Internet something Shakespeare might have liked. His texts are free and portable, and we have had the benefit now of four centuries worth of scholarship concerning them. The plays of Shakespeare are now read by, and loved by, many more (and more educated) readers than ever. There is every reason to hope this trend will continue.
These web presentations are meant as user-friendly, basic introductions to Shakespeare for those approaching the subject for the first time specifically, middle school and high school students. I am not qualified to teach Shakespeare in any greater depth, or to present his works in a scholarly edition. I hold only a bachelors degree in English, from the University of Alabama, but I was fortunate enough to have as my Shakespeare mentor none other than the late Henry Jacobs, PhD (Yale). He not only brought Shakespeare to life from the text alone, his enthusiasm for the study of the texts was infectious. I remain grateful to him, and I offer these presentations to honor his memory.
These presentations attempt to offer at least a few things that other web versions of Shakespeare do not. You can search the complete works for any specific word or phrase (an extremely useful tool) at http://the-tech.mit.edu/shakespeare with some sites, the indexing is set up so that you must first specify which play youll be searching. But what if you cant remember which play some text occurs in? No problem the master list of famous phrases here will take you to the right passage immediately. In these presentations, you can jump directly to famous phrases or speeches.
The commentary and explanations accompanying the texts, in the footnotes and the ancillary materials, are mostly my own. When I recognize that I learned a particular fact from a particular printed edition, I have tried to attribute such. Editions used to support my notes include The Riverside Shakespeare (my personal favorite), the Penguin Editions of Shakespeare, Four Tragedies, various internet-based sources, etc.
I am specifically not trying to present the works of Shakespeare in a way that would infringe on any editions copyright where I know I have borrowed an explanation or a criticism from a particular edition, I have tried to indicate such. But this is my presentation, this is Shakespeare as I perceive it, and what little value I can add to the playtext itself I offer out of my own store of knowledge of the meanings and concepts encountered therein. Most of this I learned in class from Dr. Jacobs, some I have learned from my own reading, some from seeing various productions on stage and in film, some from my classmates, some from my friends . . . the list keeps growing.
I have made minor emendations to the stage directions, following my own preferences. I have in certain places changed punctuation (where I thought it would add clarity to do so), and have chosen words and readings that I prefer, but only where differences among the historical texts permit such choices. I have not regularly followed the earlier emendations of the editors of the First Folio or any other standard source material, but have picked and chosen as seemed best to me, wherever the text might be in doubt. Since there is no such thing as a single standard, authoritative text for reading Shakespeare, this is my presentation, my edition, my Shakespeare.
Please contact me with any corrections, emendations, or other matters that you feel would improve these presentations, at email@example.com. Im always eager to learn and to correct mistakes. These plays will come out irregularly, as I have time to work on them. If youd like to be notified of the impending release of any particular play, or of play releases in general, please let me know and Ill add your e-mail address to my Shakespeare mailing list (also distributed at irregular intervals).
I offer these presentations free of charge for any and all to use. The playtexts themselves are, of course, in the public domain, but these presentations of them remain copyrighted by myself. You are free to copy, print, use as scripts, and/or distribute these presentations or any portion of them, as you see fit, as long as the structure (with all links, notes, and credits), remains intact. You may, of course, use Shakespeares texts any way you like if you want just the texts, without all the extra stuff, just do what I did: go to http://the-tech.mit.edu/shakespeare.
This HTML presentation of Julius Caesar is copyright © 2011 by John Herring.