Saturday 23 April 2016

Celebrating the bard...

William Shakespeare

23 April 1564 - 23 April 1616

William Shakespeare died four hundred years ago today on the 23rd April 1616.

He will never know the lasting legacy he left behind or the universal appeal in which his work is regarded.

I studied Shakespeare at school toiling through interminable texts and learning huge chunks of prose throughout my English A level course. It was only later, as an adult, and being privileged to visit the home of Shakespeare, at the the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, that I realised, that to truly understand Shakespeare, you had to watch his plays,. It's not enough just read his work, you have to watch and understand the subtleties of his language, his wry observation, and the warmth and wit of his storytelling ability.

Because that's what Shakespeare is, he's a teller of tales, he's a political correspondent, a comedian a tragedian, and more importantly, he's also a superb wordsmith, giving us so many phrases which we now take for granted, and whose origins we have long forgotten.

Here are just a few examples :

All our yesterdays (Macbeth)

As merry as the day is long (Much Ado About Nothing / King John)

Beggar all description (Antony and Cleopatra)

In a better world than this (As You Like It)

Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)

Fancy-free (Midsummer Night's Dream)

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)

In a pickle (The Tempest)

Knock knock! Who's there? (Macbeth)

Love is blind (Merchant of Venice)

One fell swoop (Macbeth)

Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

The world's my oyster (Merry Wives of Windsor)

Whilst the actual date of Shakespeare's birth is not known, it has been assumed that he was born on or around 23rd April. His baptism date is given as the 26th April 1564. Born and brought up in Stratford-upon -Avon, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at 18 and had three children, Susanna, and twins Hamnet and  Judith.

By 1585-1592, Shakespeare was in London making a career as a writer, playwright and part owner of a company of players, known as The Lord Chamberlain's men, later known as The King's Men.

Producing most of his work between 1592 -1613, he at first wrote comedies and histories, but by the end of the 16th century he was writing tragedies and tragicomedies and was collaborating with other playwrights.

He died in 1616 and is buried at the Holy Trinity Church Stratford-upon-Avon and is also commemorated at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. 

Here's a few snippets from my favourite Shakespeare:

Antony and Cleopatra

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety. Other women cloy

The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies. For vilest things

Become themselves in her, that the holy priests

Bless her when she is riggish.

Act Two Scene 2

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.

Act Two Scene 1

A Merchant of Venice

All that glisters is not gold—

Often have you heard that told.

Many a man his life hath sold

But my outside to behold.

Gilded tombs do worms enfold.

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,

Your answer had not been inscrolled.

Fare you well. Your suit is cold—

Cold, indeed, and labor lost.”

Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!

Act 2 Scene 7

There are lots of special events happening

You can find out more about Shakespeare 400th anniversary celebrations here

 Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.



  1. I watched the Shakespeare extravaganza last night on TV and enjoyed it somewhat..... but everyone seemed to be having a whale of a time! Particularly loved Al Murray's performance as Bottom - a part which encourages "hamming it up" if you let it. What I also realised, was that I have never seen The Scottish Play! Bit remiss of me at my age I think.

    1. Hi Susan, I watched some of the Shakespeare Live last night - I didn't like some of it but like you I thought Al Murray and Judy Dench were good !!

      I haven't seen The Scottish Play live but remember watching a particularly blood thirsty film adaptation when I studied it at A Level...


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