Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And Then There Was One

I just finished teaching Troilus and Cressida today.  That leaves me with one Shakespeare play still to teach to reach my goal of having taught all of Shakespeare's plays during my career.  That one play?  Timon of Athens.  It's been ages and ages since I've even read Timon, but I may just put it on the syllabus for next year, and then I can retire!  Well, not really, but still, that goal will be done.  (I've even taught the maybe but probably not by Shakespeare Edward III.)

I'm not especially happy with how I taught Troilus this year, but then, when I think about it, I usually take at least two goes teaching a play before I feel like I've really done a good job with it, and the plays that I've never seen someone else teach seem harder that way.

I feel like I couldn't really make it cohere, either for myself or my students, so it was sort of jumpy, between camps, between thematic issues, between plot lines.

Any thoughts on teaching Timon to help me brave that?  It's sort of hard to imagine teaching Timon in a Shakespeare surveyish course, since there are so many very fine tragedies to choose from. 

It might be fun to teach a Shakespeare representing war sort of class; I think I could make Troilus fit well in there.

Spring break is almost here!  The professional bike racing season is well on, with two fun stage races this week!  And everything in the upper Midwest is melting!  (Which may bring floods, alas, but it's so good to feel that spring may someday come!)


  1. Wow, that is impressive that you've taught so many of them! I've taught 27, but that's probably as high as I'm ever going to go, barring some fluke like a local production that I can take students to.

  2. I've used a variety of opportunities to teach some. For example, I did a course on Shakespeare and English History, and that took care of the Henry 6s, and KJ. And I did a Roman Plays course one semester (I should have made it a classics and Shakespeare, and gotten Timon in there!)

  3. I saw Timon last year in Chicago, and I was surprised at how fantastic it was. It was updated to seem like Timon's financial mess was actually a result of the 2008 housing crash, and that worked beautifully. It made the show so relevant. Plus, Ian McDiarmid played Timon, and was brilliant. What was surprising to me was that it was really, really funny. The malcontent lines were spoken with such irony and finesse that it felt hilarious and bitter at the same time. You may be hard pressed to find another production on video that would be as good, but you never know. Maybe the BBC version -- if you can find it. I actually would like to teach a Shakespeare and money course, including Timon and Merchant. I'd have to think about the rest.

    How many plays do you normally teach in a semester? Last time, I did 8 and that felt about right. I've also done just seven, and that was good too.

  4. Ah, themed courses! We don't have them here -- it's just Early Shakespeare and Late Shakespeare, and I can't see swapping Timon or Troilus into the Late Shakespeare course when I really have only one or two slots to play with. I teach eight plays a semester, and I figure I absolutely have to teach the Big Four tragedies, almost always The Tempest, and usually Measure for Measure and WT. I like to make sure there are at least three plays with a happy-ish ending on the syllabus. I've variously used the eighth slot for Coriolanus, A&C, or All's Well, and this semester I'm substituting Twelfth Night for The Tempest (which is kind of stretching the definition of "Late Shakespeare" and necessitates buying another book, but there was a touring production I could take them to, and I've already taught TT once this year).

    In Early Shakespeare, there aren't so many hyper-canonical plays that I feel like I absolutely HAVE HAVE HAVE to teach, but I like doing 1 and 2 Henry IV / Henry V / Merry Wives as a sequence, which takes up the whole second half of the semester. I've hit all of the early tragedies and all of the comedies except Two Gents, plus Richard II and Richard III on occasion, but I can't really see substituting the Henry VI plays for the later histories unless I had a very particular reason to do so. (Which is sad, because they're awesome plays and I wrote my master's thesis about them, but the second tetralogy is just so much MORE awesome.)