No one knows the exact date of Shakepeare’s birth so we tend to celebrate his death. Well tbh I don’t think I have ever celebrated his death, but April 23rd 2016 is its the 400th anniversary and, given how much I’ve been reading recently, it felt appropriate to make a blog post on it.
All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII
Really, you shouldn’t be reading Shakepeare, his plays were written to be watched and they make a lot more sense then struggling through reading them in English class which is most people’s Shakepearean experience. I can’t say I’m his biggest fan but I have enjoyed watching A Midsumer Night’s Dream performed at The Globe in London, and watching Much Ado About Nothing, the Kenneth Brannaugh film.
The plots are convoluted to say the least- the equivalent to any Spanish language soap opera- and not all of it makes sense. In Twelfth Night, for example, twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked and separated, Viola disguises herself as a man in order to get a job working for Duke Orsino who sends her to woo Countess Olivia on his behalf. Olivia, believing Viola to be a man, falls in love with Viola. Viola, of course, has fallen in love with the Duke…Meanwhile some of the other characters play a trick on Malvolio, Olivia’s pompous steward, convincing him that Olivia is in love with him. Then Sebastian turns up, Olivia mistakes him for Viola (well the man Viola is pretending to be) and proposes, they secretly marry. Finally, all four meet and Viola reveals herself as a woman, at which point she gets together with the Duke.
There are silly plot holes all over the place, but when watching the play it’s entertainment, you’re not supposed to be examining it with a fine tooth comb. And the language Shakespeare used is the key.
In fact, there are about a million words and phrases that we use everyday that old Bill came up with. A foregone conclusion? That’s from Othello in 1604. Star-crossed lovers? Why that would be the unlucky Romeo and Juliet from 1592. What the Dickens, has nothing to do with Charles Dickens, the phrase been coined more than 200yrs before he was born. It’s from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Dickens being a slang term for devil. And shuffle of this mortal coil? That’s from Hamlet in 1602, back then a coil meant bustle or fuss.
Anyway there’s a whole lot more. Of course there remains questions around whether Shakespeare did actually write all the work attributed to him. But I find language really interesting, especially in how it has changed over time.
Happy Shakespeare Day.