I’ve seen this question posed a variety of times in a variety of different sources, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked it.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what books would you take with you?
It reminds me of a short story The Bet by Anton Chekhov, about a man who goes into voluntary solitary confinement for fifteen years, who does nothing but read. At least he has the advantage of a regular supply of books as he works through them. In the desert island test you’re basically saying what books will you read over and over again.
You know what I’m going to ask, then, right?
If you’re on the “Shakespeare was meant to be performed, not read” side of the fence, is Shakespeare on your desert island list? Why?
For the record, a Complete Works has always been at the top of my list whenever I’ve pondered this question. The only debate to me is which form it should take — a First Folio, so I can appreciate the original? Or a deeply footnoted academic version so I bring with me not just Shakespeare’s text, but a few centuries of scholarship on the subject?