Note there are NO BRICKS!! That was a disaster! Even after thoroughly scrubbing them and letting them dry for several days, wherever they made contact with a surface (such as the cover of a book for instance) dampness seemed to be drawn out from inside, and along with it all manner of insidious fungaloid or bacterial growth, causing a grotesque constellation of whitish stains to sprout on the boards of the two endmost books, which I have twice now scrubbed with Clorox disinfecting wipes. It seems to have eliminated the offending discoloration. Fortunately here in my Shakespeare collection the end books are massive enough to serve as self-standing bookends themselves.
I've stopped referring to the No Fear Shakespeare series from Sparknotes - I found I disliked it because it's too easy to just read the modern - decidedly non-poetic - version and just skip even looking at the Bard's actual words - not how I want to learn my Shakespeare! So after a bit of research I've settled on the Folger paperback editions, which feature the play on the right-hand pages and brief explanatory notes opposite. Vastly preferable, because it forces you to actually read the poetry and then wrestle with the terms until you reach some hard-won glimmer of understanding. It still occasionally leaves you foxed and flummoxed on certain terms though, which is why I have Shakespeare's Words - a concordance of the difficult terms from all his work. Between this and the Asimov's Guide, which gives a wealth of historical and other information, I'm developing a decent understanding of Macbeth, the first of the plays I'm diving into. Fun factoid - getting the Folger paperbacks used, you often get notes - occasionally legible even - from former readers; sometimes illuminating, frequently confounding.
Freeing Shakespeare's Voice is a guide for actors - teaching how Shakespeare must be acted. Our current speech patterns are rational, materialistic, and utilitarian to such an extent that we tend to choke off any hint of powerful emotion or passion, which in Elizabethan days people decidedly did NOT do! Also body language must be powerful - unlike the very minimal movement we tend to use today.
I'm also currently working my way through a book called An Introduction to Philosophy by one George Stuart Fullerton, which I got from Archive.Org - originally published I believe in 1901.
I didn't intend this phase of my life to be quite so - bookish - but that's what it's become! And I love it!
I've just now bought the Kindle editions of The Dream of Reason: a History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance and its sequel The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy by Anthony Gottlieb. These seem to be exactly what I've been seeking - entertaining and informative accounts of these important periods in the history of rational thought (or the attempt at it anyway) done in narrative form rather than as a listing of events and dates. Make it FUN! I think a subject so potentially mind-numbing needs to be made fun. The second volume ends just before Kant, who will begin the upcoming third volume. Looking forward to that one!
Here's a good review of both books on The New York Times' website.
I was quite surprised to find that each of these periods of unfettered philosophical activity - sparked at times when rational thought managed to briefly throw off the manacles of proscribed religious and political repression - only lasted about 150 years! With centuries of the Sleep of Reason lying in between!