The point here being, in my estimation, is who gives a rat’s about the facts of the matter. All that counts is that they exist and life would be much poorer if they did not exist; if they had never been written.
To state that I am an admirer of the works of Shakespeare would be to state the case mildly. I treasure all that he produced even if he didn’t produce his all. Somebody did.
The point of this exercise is to note that the ‘Bard of Avon’ would be 450 years old today. For virtually half a millennium his ‘truths’ have been paramount in our culture. Paramount enough that sometimes there is discussion as to whether a notable quote is from Shakespeare or the Bible.
“Nope, it’s Mark Twain.” Yeah, well that happens, too, but you get my drift.
Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, as most people know. Years ago I visited the place. A nice town it is today, but the queue for Anne Hathaway’s cottage was massive, so we refrained from joining it. Ann was, of course, the missus of William and she was in no way related to the actress of the same name. She was supposedly a bit older than he and when he died in 1515 he left her his second best bed. No word as to whom he left his ‘best’ bed.
When we were in Stratford we went to visit All Saints Church in which he is interred. I was pissed off at the time because they charged admission to see his crypt. I later voiced my exception to the gouging to the vicar father of a friend, but he defended the demand saying it cost a great deal to maintain such historic shrines. OK, I accepted his reasoning in the matter.
Shakespeare ultimately departed Stafford and headed to London where the action was and therein he wrote his massive array of plays, poems, songs and so forth in prodigious numbers and also hung out with the leading political lights of the day like Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon and Ben Jonson and they had a good time – or I am assuming they did.
The thing that has always confounded students and scholars about Shakespeare is how on earth did he turn out so much stuff, and most of it so good and so true.
Of particular fascination to me are his political plays, the assorted Henrys and Richards and the like and always bearing in mind the plays do not represent necessarily the realities of the person in question. His Richard III is a hunchbacked little homicidal turd given to murdering little princes. His Richard II is expedited with a red-hot poker up his bum. But, those guys were Yorkists and it wasn’t politically expedient to favor the House of York with a Tudor on the throne with her Lancastrian connections. So, Will sucked up to Elizabeth and after she died he sucked up to James I with Macbeth, and did a Richard III job on the poor old Thane of Cawdor.
Hey, he knew how to play the political cards well in a harsh society, so he was always in favor in the Court.
At the end of it all, I love the works of Shakespeare and find him as relevant today as he ever was as so many truths are vouchsafed in his writings.
And I must confess that a big regret in my life is never having seen Shakespeare performed on a stage. Have seen many film versions but not acted as one should see it. When we lived in England we were going to get tickets to see the Peter O’Toole version of ‘The Scottish Play’. Would have loved to see O’Toole but evidently the production was one of the worst in performance history. Oh well.
Happy Birthday, Will.