10 years. Wow. That’s older than my youngest child. If you look closely, you can actually see them grow up before our very eyes. My son saw his first show (The Tempest) when he was still in his stroller. You can find the sonnet I wrote to my daughter on her first birthday, or the time I taught them to sing Sonnet 18 almost before my littlest could speak. (* Alas the actual audio file is no longer available online.)
What a long, strange trip it’s been. I remember how and why I got started, too. I was listening to Howard Stern on the radio, and Robin was doing the news. She made a Shakespeare reference. I got it, but then I thought, “You know, when I get to work there’s nobody that I can tell that story to, because I don’t think anybody I know would get it.”
So I got online and started looking for forums that talked about Shakespeare. But this is a tricky subject for me, because I didn’t want to talk about performing the plays, nor did I want to talk about studying them academically. I more or less wanted to talk about things like pop culture references, like hearing a Shakespeare reference on the Howard Stern show.
So I made one. The original name, if anybody remembers, was actually “Such Shakespeare Stuff.” I started it as a category on my family blog (long since gone), but eventually transitioned it over. Somewhere along the line somebody called me a real Shakespeare geek and the name stuck because I liked the idea that I’d spent my life as a computer nerd type person so geek just naturally seemed to fit.
As you can see by my earliest posts I was really just combing the net for Shakespeare stuff and posting anything I could get my hands on. There wasn’t much discussion, because there wasn’t much readership. I thought, when I started it, that maybe I would begin to build an audience of people who didn’t know much about Shakespeare, but wanted to learn more. That, after all, was typically how my real life conversations went. Anytime Shakespeare came up (usually because I brought him up), I was the only one in the conversation with any knowledge of the subject. So I did most of the talking and others just kind of listened and hopefully learned.
Oh, then there was the one day that Google quoted me. They had just put Shakespeare’s work online and kicked it off by quoting me. Note the name of the blog at the time. 🙂
Then a funny thing happened. Actual Shakespeare scholars started showing up, who wanted to talk about Shakespeare in a less formal setting. People like Catkins and Bardfilm, David Blixt and JM and Cass Morris and Alan Farrar (RIP), all of whom knew way, way more about Shakespeare than I did. There were times when I immediately switched over to impostor syndrome and thought, “What am I doing? How can I host this, when everybody that is reading what I’m writing actually knows more about this than I do?”
But my honored guests didn’t seem to mind. On the contrary we would often stumble across topics that hadn’t been studied before, like a bowling reference in Sonnet 20 or our debate over whether Francisco saw the ghost. And I realized that in my own small way I was contributing to something of value to the conversation, because I was asking the questions and hosting the place to discuss the answers. We had created a place precisely where people with no knowledge of Shakespeare who wanted to learn could interact with people who had the knowledge and were excited to share it. All I had to do was sit back and facilitate the discussion.
One day a coworker came up to me, a coworker who’d never spoken to me previously, and said, “I thought of you this morning.” Which was cool, because she was a very attractive coworker :). “I was watching a movie and they said something about Shakespeare, and I thought hey, I should tell Duane about this.” And that’s exactly why I do this.
We made merchandise, and one day I even saw one of my t-shirts in the wild.
We created jokes, and one day I saw somebody get up on stage and deliver one of my jokes before a performance.
My family and I toured the Folger vault, and I got so close to the most beautiful book in the world I could have eaten it.
I regularly teach Shakespeare at the local elementary school, and have done so since my children were 7 years old.
Today as I said goodbye to my group of fifth graders (since I’m unlikely to get the opportunity to teach them at the middle school, believe me I’ve already asked), I left them with the four words that have become the mission statement for this blog. Shakespeare makes life better. I’ve been doing it now for ten years. That sounds like one of those questions you hear in a presidential debate. “Ask yourself, is my life better now than it was ten years ago?” Absofrickinlutely.
I can’t begin to recap 10 years in one blog post, even though I’d like to try. Thank you so much to all my readers, my contributors, and most importantly, to steal a line from my Rebel friends…