‘All the world’s a stage’, Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It. We are all connected to and belong to this ‘globe’; thrust upon it, no matter where we’re from, no matter what our religion, faith or ideology. To share in something beautiful often inspires and illuminates the mind and spirit. I first discovered Shakespeare during my twenties – rather late for the introduction of such a rich language – yet a new world opened up for me, enabling me to discover and experience not only new feelings and emotions that were previously unknown to me, but also a world of literary revelations. I have since continued my endless and fascinating journey through the literary and creative world. But it was from that moment, some twenty years ago, that I dreamed of bringing my experience of Shakespeare to everyone.
For many, it is difficult to understand Shakespeare in its original form. Often, readers get no further than the first few lines of text. Sadly, for many other potential readers of Shakespeare, the curtain closes even before it has opened. When I first read Shakespeare, I was immediately drawn to the rhythm, the poetry, the emotion and vast knowledge that Shakespeare’s work held within its pages. It was as though a door had opened and a light had been switched on, allowing me to see through the darkness something exquisite, something that had always been there, yet was hidden from view. I realised that by combining beautiful language with magnificent art, I could open the door and switch on the light for many readers who might otherwise never discover Shakespeare.
If I could manage to bring together artists from around the world – each artist offering an expression of their interpretation of these masterpieces – and combine their work with all of Shakespeare’s canon, a whole new generation of readers might be motivated to further investigate the undiscovered world of Shakespeare. My hope is that the easy-to-read Millennium Shakespeare series will educate, stimulate, develop and open the senses of all those who are fortunate enough to discover it, ransporting the reader from this stage into a ‘new world’. I would like to give special thanks to my wonderful daughter Jessica, who has – almost since the day she was born – always been aware of my desire to bring Millennium Shakespeare to life. As she has grown into a young woman, I’m sure Jessica has at times wondered whether this series would ever come to print. And now, at last, we begin. I would also like to thank my family and close friends for their unwavering support and patience in understanding my desire to bring Shakespeare to the modern world.
I would like to thank my editor, Associate Professor Jeffrey Kahan (University of La Verne), whose support has been invaluable during the development of Millennium Shakespeare. I would also like to thank Professor of English Stanley Stewart, Riverside, California for his acknowledgment of the series, as well as copy editor Lorraine Roche, who has worked with great enthusiasm and energy on this project, and Canadian designer Fiona Raven for her continued efforts in developing this special series. My thanks go, too, to all the artists who have contributed to the series, and to their associates who have continued to support my endeavours. My thanks extend to those few, those happy few, who always believed in this cultural vision – to bring to life the most beautiful and definitive series of Shakespeare’s classic stories for modern readers throughout the world.
Michael J. Stewart, Author