I made jokes in my last two posts about how I’m not trying to talk down to anyone, which, as is true whenever anyone makes that kind of joke, means one of two things: I was talking down to you, or I have a paralyzing fear that people will think I think I know more than them and be mad at me for it.

Obviously it’s the second one. But those posts were both kind of in the realm of ‘ha ha I like to think about Shakespeare really closely and academically and you should too,’ so I thought a change of pace might be in order. That’s why today I’m recommending a book I think everyone should read, regardless of how much you know or think you know about Shakespeare. It’s simultaneously one of the most accessible and comprehensive books on his work I’ve ever read.

That book is Emma Smith’s This is Shakespeare, published in 2016. I got it in e-book form from the library and I’ve now returned it, so if you live in Seattle this is your chance to snatch it up.

Continue Reading

BARDOLPH: And of women.
HOSTESS: Nay, that he did not.
BOY: Yes, that he did, and said they were devils incarnate.
HOSTESS: ‘a never could abide carnation. ’twas a color he never liked.

Henry V act 3, scene 2


This is your periodic reminder that I adore Henry V and you should too. And also a reminder that it might seem like I’m talking down to you here, but I promise I just sound like a patronizing dick all the time and it’s nothing personal.

Continue Reading

I’ve recently joined a Shakespeare reading group over zoom, and that’s been fun for a number of reasons, not least because I will never get to play Falstaff ever again so at least now I can say I’ve done it. But it’s also given me an excuse to write a post I’ve been thinking of writing for ages (this one), so that’s another plus.

This week happens to be Henry V, my fourth-favorite Shakespeare play. And because I, like an absolute fool, said I was comfortable with a French accent, I’m reading for Alice. But! All is not terrible, because I got a text midway through The French Scene from a friend who shall remain unnamed saying “ryan what is happening when did you learn french,” so clearly all those years of struggling through the IPA for weird French art songs paid off.

Continue Reading

I love Shakespeare in Love. It’s one of my go-to cheer-up movies and I’ve seen it on stage twice (and not to brag but I’ve hung out with the dog who played Crab in the second production and given him belly rubs, so, you know, I’m basically famous by association).

Unfortunately you have to pay money to watch it these days, so I thought I’d see if the best parts were on youtube. They probably are, but I got completely sidetracked by the discovery that Miramax has put the entirety of their 45-minute educational DVD bonus featurette up as well. And I watched the whole thing, because I feel like that’s where we’re all at these days.

Continue Reading

First of all, happy International Workers’ Day; I hope everyone is being conscientious about their buying choices. We’re over a month into quarantine, and those of you who (unlike me) had the foresight to borrow a bunch of books are probably either reaching the end of that stack or got totally sidetracked by Animal Crossing. But if (like me) you don’t have a Switch, you might be in the market for some new things to read; maybe Shakespeare, maybe not.

So if it’s alright with y’all, I want to use this post as a soapbox for just a sec. (Who am I kidding; this entire blog is my soapbox. It’s either this or stand on a freeway overpass with a bigass banner saying HONK IF YOU THINK SHAKESPEARE WAS QUEER.)

Continue Reading

My sister has a favorite word. I thought that was kind of weird, when she first told me, but then I went into this spiral of ‘do I have a favorite word? Should I have a favorite word? Is that a thing most people have?’ and that was a rough couple of days. So I’m pleased to reassure you all that now I do, in fact, have a favorite word: theorbo.

But this is (mostly) not a post about theorbos; it’s a post about discoveries (and a lot of youtube links you should definitely follow).

Continue Reading

It’s April 23rd, and you know what that means: only 362 days until the next 4/20, hang in there everyone.

But perhaps less importantly, it’s the international holiday commonly known as “Shakesversary”. Of what, you ask – his birth? His death? His interment in the cave, only to rise again on the 26th? (That’s what a christening is, right?) The answer is that like 80% of Shakespeare’s life is up for debate, so really April 23rd is a day for us.

Continue Reading

So Lent is officially over; if you celebrate it I hope it went well. I participated in a family easter egg hunt over zoom and learned that I used to force my parents to read my picture books silently to themselves while I flipped through pages and presumably understood none of the words, so really nothing has changed.

A lot of this blog is going to be, in essence, a book report: a read-along-with-Ryan, if you will. I’m nothing like an expert, but I am good at reading books. So I figured, if you’re someone who wants to know more about Shakespeare and doesn’t know where to start, why not take advice from someone who started in entirely the wrong place and has been learning things with absolutely no pattern or plan ever since?

Continue Reading

As of posting, Seattle has been under quarantine for one week. (insert party streamers emoji here) But I have hot water again, so who cares, blog’s canceled, everyone go home.

Anyway, I thought I’d start us off on a downer, in the hopes that it can only go up from here: two weeks ago The Atlantic ran an article by a professor at Linfield College that basically boiled down to “hey, does anybody else think maybe this whole worldwide theatre shutdown thing could actually be kind of, idk, good for theatre?” which, as takeaways go, feels a bit like a slap in the face.

Continue Reading

There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
Would men observingly distil it out.

Henry V, act 4, scene 1

So I’ve been out of a job for nine days now and out of hot water for four, which naturally means it’s time to start a blog. Because, as we all know, no one starts a blog if they have reasons to leave the house or shower. And I do not, so here we are.

So, without (much) further ado, welcome to Stumblethrough Shakespeare, where I learn things about Shakespeare and share them with you if I think they’re interesting or writing about them will make me sound smart.

Am I an expert? Absolutely not. Do I have a lot of time on my hands and an irritating habit of reading mildly interesting wikipedia articles out loud to anyone in the room with me? Unfortunately yes. But in commencing this new chapter of my life, I can now stop inundating my friends with useless facts and instead spam them with links to blog posts containing at least 60% more useless facts than they’re usually willing to sit through before pointedly turning on music.

Real talk, though, it’s been a hard few weeks for us folk in the theatre, for a lot of reasons. I know many of us are in what might as well be mourning, for our jobs, our shows, our communities. We’re adrift.

This blog is my coping mechanism.

Mostly, that’s because I can’t bake and I’m not flexible enough for yoga. But I do think Shakespeare can be a comfort in times of struggle, for all of us. Not because he provides a message of hope, or anything like that – when was the last time you heard someone describe a Shakespeare play as “hopeful”? If you search for an uplifting conclusion in Shakespeare, you either get a postponed wedding, some sort of weird too-late moralizing, or a speech about books that’s supposed to be really empowering but ends up leaving you feeling just kind of disquieted. Or maybe that’s just me.

But that’s not really why we look. Because Shakespeare, better than anyone else, knew how to get at the heart of human suffering and put it on the page. When we seek comfort in Shakespeare, we find not hope, but solidarity. And when our grief is too all-encompassing to express, it’s nice to have someone on hand who’s way better at words than we are.

Obviously this blog is going to outlast our modern-day ban on playing; I’ve got a note on my phone with like 30 punny post titles and I can’t quit until I’ve used them all. But for the time being, I hope you all have something that gives you as much purpose as this dumb little blog is giving me.

So stay safe out there, friends, and if I can’t be educational, at least I’ll be entertaining.