During a recent visit to the central branch of the Boston Public Library, I took a break to check out an exhibition, “Shakespeare Unauthorized,” on display through the end of the month. I’ve never been a big Shakespeare reader, watcher, or listener, but I readily recognize his brilliance and profound influence, and I’m a bit of an Anglophile to boot. Plus, I was procrastinating on reviewing student paper outlines and drafts.
It was an interesting exhibition, and here’s what specially caught my eye: Shakespeare was part of a writing circle — Elizabethan style! One of the panels told me so:
The motion picture “Shakespeare in Love” notwithstanding, I’ve thought of the Bard as this lone genius, writing away at his desk, lost in his plots and thoughts. After all, writing is mostly a solitary activity, right?
Nevertheless, it sure helps to have friends and buddies who help to prod us along in that oft-lonesome task of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Furthermore, if that process includes a mix of mutual encouragement, feedback, and suggestions, then the written products may be all the better for it. While the Shakespeares of the world may come around only once every thousand years or so, a supportive cohort can help to unearth the brilliance we do possess.
In November 2015, I wrote a post about the importance of tribes, borrowing from the work of writer and entrepreneur Seth Godin:
Tribes give us a chance to be a part of something larger and more significant than our individual lives. This appeals to our desire for meaningful connection, to be able to work with others toward making a difference or having a stronger impact in a sphere of interest.
Shakespeare had his tribe! And quite a talented group they made. It may have been the writing circle of writing circles.
The other item grabbing my attention was the existence of at least two versions of Hamlet, significantly different in several major passages, including the iconic “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. Such literary detective stories are fascinating, but is nothing sacred? What’s next? Will a certain fast food chain now claim that in addition to “As You Like It,” there’s another version titled “Have It Your Way”?