Project Shakespeare: month #3 wrap up

It’s kind of mind-blowing that we’re three months into this already, but let’s just dive straight into this!  Months 1 and 2 wrap ups are here and here respectively – see month 1 if you’re unsure what this whole thing is all about.


Much Ado About Nothing
my role (first show): Leonato
my role (second show): Hero

We had another double feature, doing our regular Saturday evening show and then a Sunday matinee.  I played Leonato one day and his daughter Hero the next, two rather different experiences.  Hero is the character that I like and connect with the most in this play, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to play her.  Leonato I didn’t ‘get’ quite as much, so when in doubt, overcompensate by laying on the drunk, corny dad energy thick.

Much Ado was new to me, and I had high hopes as this seems to be everyone’s favorite play – or if not their favorite, at least in their top 5.  I can see why; it’s charming and witty and a healthy dose sassier than its oft-compared Twelfth Night.  I desperately wanted to like it more than I did.  This is the play that really confirmed for me that I’m never going to love the comedies (at least, not this type of comedy; something like The Tempest is a different story).  This week more than most made me really reflect on what works for me in Shakespeare’s plays (and literature in general, more broadly) and what doesn’t.  Ultimately I just need there to be something of consequence at stake, and ‘whether or not Beatrice and Benedick hook up’ just doesn’t do it for me.  I don’t dislike this play at all but neither is it a new favorite.


The Winter’s Tale
my roles: Florizel, Time, Gaoler, First Lady

This play is very tonally uneven, so my thoughts about it are all over the place.  The thing is, I can enjoy both halves of what Shakespeare is doing in this play.  I can get behind an aged ruler making terrible and selfish decisions that lead to the death of his loved ones (Lear) and I can get behind jaunty forest shenanigans (Midsummer), but the fusion of the two… does not work for me here, probably because I don’t find a single one of these characters interesting or compelling in the slightest.  I like isolated moments in this play but overall it really fails to move me.  I do like Florizel well enough though, and playing Time was fun.  This was an enjoyable read-through; we went a bit wild with “exit, pursued by a bear” with everyone providing their own interpretation of The Bear.  But, I don’t know, this one is just a bit too weird for me overall.


Timon of Athens
my roles: Painter, Varro’s Second Man, Third Friend, Some Speak, Third Bandit

Speaking of weird plays… Timon was also new to me and I find it both interesting and underwhelming in equal measure.  Interesting in that it reads more like a fable than a tragedy, and its tone is probably the most singular of any Shakespeare play I’ve read so far (which would make sense, given that it was cowritten), so it was just a bit of a different experience overall.  Underwhelming in that I found the language in this one rather static and not terribly moving (though once Timon begins to descend into madness he does get some poignant monologues), and I didn’t find any of the characters particularly intriguing.

This read-through was just as chaotic as you would expect from a play with 50+ characters, only 4 of whom really have any kind of significant role.  But chaos can be fun sometimes, and that was absolutely the case here.  There were ridiculous accents everywhere, me and Abby poured glasses of water over own heads in a scene where Timon throws water over a crowd of spectators, and the whole thing was grounded by a brilliant, elegant portrayal of Timon by Will, who stayed up until 3 am for this nonsense, for which we were all SO grateful.


Henry V
my roles: Katharine, Duke of Orleans, Duke of York, Sir Thomas Grey

I had a somewhat lukewarm experience reading this script, but while I was reading I had the thought that it would be a terribly compelling play to see on stage.  And indeed, if our performance is anything to go by, damn, this is a brilliant piece of theatre.  This was my favorite Project Shakespeare performance since Lear, and I loved every second of it.  Seeing my college roommate and name twin Rachel shine while playing Hal was probably the highlight, but the leek scene had everyone in hysterics, and getting to perform a whole scene in French is one of my favorite things that I’ve gotten to do in weeks.  She’s a small role, but Katharine quickly became one of my favorite Shakespeare characters – I dare anyone to read this scene of Katharine learning English (linking to No Fear Shakespeare for the English translation) and not be overwhelmed by how cute it is.  I just can’t even explain how great everyone’s energy was for this performance.  Bring on the rest of the histories, tbh!

Up next: a Romeo & Juliet double feature, with me playing Romeo on Sunday, which is… an exciting and terrifying prospect!

14 thoughts on “Project Shakespeare: month #3 wrap up

    • The tragedies are SO MUCH BETTER! I mean, I’ve always had that opinion, but before this the only comedies I’d ever read were Midsummer (which I love, but it’s quite different) and Twelfth Night (which I do not love), so I thought I maybe hadn’t read the right ones yet. But when Much Ado didn’t do much for me I was like… yeah, I am firmly a tragedy gal.

      Katharine is so adorable, I love her. I need to watch the movie still!


  1. Timon’s weird as hell, and there’s a theory that it’s actually unfinished (it relies on another theory, which is that Shakespeare wrote his drafts in layers: so, a sketchy skeleton of Acts 1-5 was the first thing he did, and then he went back and built up language, plot, character, etc.)

    The Katharine language-learning scene in H5 is solidly in the running for my favourite scene in any Shakespeare play. It feels so real; her relationship with her lady-in-waiting (or is it her nurse?) is so natural and sweet yet also playful (with a little of my fave, crude body-part humour, thrown in).

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    • I’ve heard that theory and without investigating in much detail I fully ascribe to it tbh. Timon is so bizarrely anticlimactic, I can’t imagine anyone reading or watching it and actually being moved by Timon’s death – it’s just like… well, yeah, that’s a thing that happened. It’s a subtly sad play when I spend a while thinking about it but mostly I don’t want to spent much time thinking about it.

      I LOVE KATHARINE SO MUCH and at this point I would definitely put it in my top 5 scenes as well. Oh damn, favorite scene should have been my Shakespeare question this week, I couldn’t think of a good one! But yes I just love Katharine’s stubbornness and over-confidence in that scene and Alice’s patient exasperation, it’s such a sweet and wholesome exchange. This is only the second role I’ve done for Project Shakespeare where I’ve been like LET ME PLAY THIS ON A REAL STAGE PLEASE (AFTER I IMPROVE MY FRENCH)


  2. Impressed by how well this project has worked. I had some grand ambitions of trying to read and watch more Shakespeare plays in lockdown. This started off well with the brilliant NT streamed production of Twelfth Night (which is my favourite Shakespeare play!) but since then all I’ve watched is 10 Things I Hate About You 🙂

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    • Believe me, no one is more surprised than I am that this has worked out so well. We all had a blast in the first week and agreed to do it a few more times but I think we all thought it was going to fizzle out shortly after – but people are more committed than ever, it’s amazing. Honestly it’s become a bit of a cult but I’m not complaining.

      Ohhhhh that’s so interesting that Twelfth Night is your favorite, I would NOT have guessed that! I enjoy Twelfth Night but I don’t love it. I saw a truly inexplicable local production once that was entirely period except for Fabian who was portrayed as a surfer bro. It haunts me to this day…

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      • Love the idea of a random surfer turning up in Twelfth Night 🙂 I think I love it because it’s both dark and light at the same time, with its recognition of the passing of time and the mistreatment of Malvolio. Like you, I do generally prefer the tragedies, but there’s something so painfully beautiful about Twelfth Night.

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      • That totally makes sense! I just find the comedies curiously cold for the most part and Twelfth Night is no exception for me – I like Viola well enough but otherwise struggle to get invested. That’s interesting that you bring up Malvolio because I never know how to feel about the treatment of him – I feel like in a way we’re meant to rejoice at his comeuppance which has always felt a bit mean-spirited to me. So you think the poor treatment of him is more self-consciously done (by Shakespeare, not the characters)?

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      • I always struggle to write about Shakespeare because I didn’t study English literature past sixth form [high school] and never know if I have the right vocab! But yes, Malvolio strikes me as one of those Shakespearean characters where the play is in tension with itself. The text can be performed in different ways but there’s clearly enough mileage there to allow for a highly sympathetic reading (as in the NT production I saw online). This, for me, is one of the great triumphs of Twelfth Night – there’s an emotional depth to almost all of the characters (e.g. Sir Andrew’s ‘I was adored once, too’) and this adds to the overall sense of transient joy in the middle of a sadder world. I don’t feel that any of the other comedies I’ve seen or read have that (e.g. I think Much Ado is great fun, but it’s all Beatrice/Benedick with a very shadowy secondary cast).


  3. THREE MONTHS! That was rather a shock to read, but I love that Project Shakespeare is still marching onward. Sorry to see you didn’t find any new favorites this month, but I’m glad the productions are such fun anyway! (Though how could they not be, with glasses of water thrown and all!)
    I think since your last Shakespeare update I’ve acquired copies of King Lear and Hamlet; I haven’t read them yet but was very encouraged by your reviews and look forward to getting to them. 🙂


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