Neither ‘rogue nor peasant slave was he’ so happy birthday to you, Will

cardoonThere is an old joke that states: Shakespeare did not write his plays; they were written by another playwright of the same name.

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.

shakespeerShakespeare 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.



6 responses to “Neither ‘rogue nor peasant slave was he’ so happy birthday to you, Will

  1. I have seen a few Shakespeare play’s performed at our college, but sometimes I find the language a bit hard to understand. I have enjoyed them. When I was in 7th grade I had an assignment to re-write the Merchant of Venice using “modern language of the day.” A 7th grader is too young for that and I often found myself saying “WHAT are they saying?!” I would ask my parents, neither being very helpful. What a task it was, and I think the teacher regretted her assignments to us after we all kept asking her “what does this mean?” Bet she never did that again!

  2. When DD and I were in Stratford-on-Avon, we were able to visit Anne Hathaway’s family cottage and I, the lover of historic houses, was quite charmed. We didn’t get to see where Will was interred because the church was already closed up for the night and we were leaving early the next morning. But back in London, we saw “Measure for Measure” at the reconstructed Globe Theatre and DD, the English Lit major at university, was utterly enthralled.

    It was a good trip – for many, many reasons.

  3. I adore Will (he and I are on a first name basis). My license plate for years and years was SHKSPR. It’s been too long ~ I need to pull out a script or two for a reread.

  4. I like your license plate. How neat. Yes, Will and I also chat with regularlity. Rereading. Now there’s a plan.

  5. He is, apparently, responsible for many words we use regularly like:
    Addiction, Arch-villain, Assassination,. Bedazzled, Belongings, Cold-blooded, Dishearten, Eventful, Eyeball, Fashionable, Hot-blooded, Inaudible, Ladybird, Manager, Multitudinous, New-fangled, Pageantry, Scuffle, Swagger, Uncomfortable
    Yes, I googled it.

  6. I was going to google it, too, but was too lazy to do so. But it’s amazing how modern so many of the terms are.

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