Shakespeare Aloud


Shakespeare Aloud, or Billy Does Willy as my friends like to call it, chronicles my attempt to read the entire canon of William Shakespeare out loud and in public, hopefully, if the stars be pleased, within one year’s time starting May 15, 2011.  I play all the parts and attempt to read for the clarity of the verse and to experience his words out loud in the most accurate chronology possible.  The project began by imagining a new book that could be a practical guide to all of Shakespeare’s many musics: the myriad songs and dances in the canon, the roles of various musician characters, the all-too-frequent uses of music as metaphor throughout the plays, the reliance on the Music of the Spheres as a cultural belief, the many instruments called for and described, Shakespeare’s great knowledge of music theory, and finally, the musicality of the verse.  This last bit would without question be the thorniest, and has presented great issues to ponder.  Dare I write a ‘how-to’ regarding speaking Shakespeare’s verse?  Certainly not like that.  But how does one address the musicality of speaking without being prescriptive?  I thought the only good way to start would be reading the whole canon again to track WS’s development as a poet.  In order – why not? that would be a wonderful perspective.  It soon became obvious this task should be done out loud, as Shakespeare’s audiences went to hear plays, not to see them, and after all I’m looking for the musicality of language.  Then I thought, I should really do this in public.  And a friend suggested that no one would believe that I did the whole thing unless I taped it.  Suddenly, a blog was born (or worse, a vlog…) that has me skipping all over the planet, reading bits wherever I can, and taking my show (stunt) on the road to perplex a growing number of incredulous people.




My methodology is essentially simple and straight forward.  I will read each scene in order (see notes on order below), and wherever I am in the world I will plug along, reading in a different place each time.  Yorick, my quietly skulking friend, is with me at every reading and is my witness and only prop.  I began at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and have finished the first play mostly in Europe, reading scenes in London (in front of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, in front of the statue of Oliver Cromwell, and in front of Buckingham Palace), in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Notre Damn, along the Seine), Geneva (in front of the United Nations building, in a treehouse), and have finished this opening parade lap in Boston.  Serendipity, which in my case is the marriage of great location with scene (and occasionally weather) has already occurred and I find this truly exciting.  I’ll post a list of such posts so that as they grow, the more exciting examples of this will be easy to find on the site.

I am self-funded, and though I have no drive to start a Kickstarter or other campaign to cover my costs, I hereby express my zeal and eagerness to invite anyone who would like Shakespeare Aloud to include them, their family, their theatre company, stage, lovely gardens, etc., to contact me and we can arrange travel to your destination.  Have a grandfather with an upcoming birthday who loves Shakespeare?  Want your Shakespeare company to be represented along with Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts?  My email is


According to Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor in their complete Oxford Shakespeare


1589-93           The Two Gentlemen of Verona

1590-93           The Taming of the Shrew

1590-94           King Edward III [with other authors]

1590-92           King Henry VI Part 3

1590-91            King Henry VI Part 2

1590-91            Titus Andronicus

1591-92            King Henry VI Part 1 [with other authors]

1592-93            Richard III

1592-94            The Comedy of Errors

1593                  Venus and Adonis*

1593-95            Love’s Labour’s Lost

1594                  The Rape of Lucrece*

1594-95            A Midsummer Night’s Dream

1594-95            Romeo & Juliet

1594-96            Richard II

1594-96            King John

1596-97            The Merchant of Venice

1596-97            King Henry IV Part 1

1597                  The Merry Wives of Windsor

1597-98            King Henry IV Part 2

1599                  The Passionate Pilgrim*

1598-99            Much Ado About Nothing

1599                   Henry V

1599                   Julius Caesar

1599-1600        As You Like It

1601                  The Phoenix and the Turtle*

1600-01            Hamlet

1601-02            Twelfth Night

1602-03            Troilus & Cressida

1604                   Measure for Measure

1603-04            Othello

1603-05            All’s Well That Ends Well

1604-07            Timon of Athens [with Thomas Middleton]

1605-08            King Lear

1606                   Macbeth

1606-07            Antony & Cleopatra

1608-09            Pericles [with George Wilkins]

1608                  Coriolanus

1609                  A Lover’s Complaint*

1609-10            The Winter’s Tale

1610-11            Cymbeline

1610-11            The Tempest

1613                  Henry VIII [with John Fletcher]

1613                  Double Falsehood, or Cardenio [with John Fletcher]*

1613-15            The Two Noble Kinsmen [with John Fletcher]

* – items not on the Wells/Taylor list.  I aim to read the complete works, so I’ll include the poems Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece that are surely Shakespeare and have stable authorship dates, as that’s when these two were published.  The Sonnets I plan to sprinkle in as I go – I don’t know of any compelling theory they were written all at once, and lord only knows what order.  I will also read The Passionate Pilgrim, A Lover’s Complaint  and The Phoenix and the Turtle which are all of doubtful authorship.  The dates given for each of these above are that of their publication, which says very little about when they were written, which perhaps especially in the case of Venus could be significantly earlier.