We are currently studying Henry V. We have worked our way through Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, Falstaff and all. That has entailed reading together, going to matinee performances of the three Henries at Shakespeare's Globe, watching DVDs of the 2015 Royal Shakespeare Company productions and lots of discussion. We saw the Globe The Merry Wives of Windsor and will watch the RSC on DVD.
Since we began in May 2015 we have studied A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Winter's Tale, The Tragedy of Coriolanus, Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear, seen productions of those plays at the Globe, The Barbican and The Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames — and watched DVDs of theatre, cinema and television productions of them.
Between plays, we study Shakespeare's poetry. Last Spring we worked on sonnets in which he challenged and mocked the Elizabethan sonnet fashion, in particular the use of simile and metaphor. Over the years we have pored over twenty-one sonnets so far and the neglected extended verse, A Lover's Complaint.
The Group has also seen and discussed the gender-playful Hamlet and As You Like It at The Globe and the 1980 BBC TV The Taming of the Shrew on DVD.
As you can see, we are an active group. The eight of us like to take take our time thoroughly reading together, engaging in searching and wide-ranging discussion of the plays, the poetry, Shakespeare's characters and their relationships, his language and imagery, the social and political history of the time, the inferences we can draw about Shakespeare the man and relevance of his works for us.
We exchange thoughts freely and occasionally argue. Together, we have laughed — and at times quietly reflected and shed a tear. Shakespeare's works raise a range of issues: family relationships, romantic love and infatuation; jealousy, separation, loss and reconciliation; power and abuse of power; social unrest and war; sexuality and sexual desire; loyalty and human foibles; patriarchy and women's assertiveness. We find that Shakespeare did indeed "hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature" (Hamlet III ii 20).
Before the COVID-19 outbreak the Group met on the first Thursday and second Friday of each month, and we hope to return to that rhythm at our usual venue when it is safe to do so. We held no meetings in April, May and June. Since July we have met every so often to read and discuss Henry V in a temporary, larger space, safely distanced and taking care to look after ourselves and to behave responsibly. PLEASE NOTE This group is temporarily suspended again (18 September 2020)
There is a short waiting list - and the prospect of a second Shakespeare Group.