Monday, April 22


Tomorrow is Shakespeare Day. The day has also been designated 'World Book and Copyright Day' by UNESCO. April 23rd is said to have been the day of William Shakespeare's birth (no one is quite sure) in 1564, and it was certainly the day on which he died in 1516 (for a short biography, see http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/about_shake.htm). In Madrid, Miguel Cervantes died on the very same day. Various other illustrious writers over the centuries have also died on 23 April.

If you've ever said 'It's Greek to me', 'It's high time' or 'It's early days,'; 'The truth will out' or 'The game is up'; 'at one fell swoop', 'the long and short of it' or 'without rhyme or reason'; if you've 'played fast and loose' or bid someone 'good riddance' and sent them packing, talked about having your teeth set on edge, laughing yourself into stitches or having seen better days -- or recalled your salad days; if you've described a person as being a tower of strength, in a pickle or hoodwinked; dancing attendance or standing on ceremony, refusing to budge an inch or making a virtue of necessity; or if you've called anyone an eyesore, the devil incarnate or a blinking idiot, you've been quoting Shakespeare.

(And if that isn't the longest sentence I've ever written, I don't know what is.)

The Phrase Finder at http://phrases.shu.ac.uk/meanings/shakespeare.html and the Shakepeareisms Page at
http://www.ojohaven.com/fun/shakespeareisms.html ('a shakespeareism is a word or phrase in common usage that was coined by William Shakespeare') are fun as far as they go.

For reviews of 'Shakespeare's Language' by Frank Kermode, see 'Will's Power' at http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/classics/0,6121,213112,00.html and 'Wild and Whirling Words' at http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/classics/0,6121,217663,00.html.

You may hardly have the time to read or watch a whole play, but you can always dip into Shakespeare's sonnets. Usefully annotated and attractively illustrated, all 154 are available at http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/sonn01.htm.

How well do you know London? That's the question posed at a new website that spotlights each of London's major attractions, including Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. By answering a series of questions you could win a prize, such as a visit to the Globe. To find out more, go to http://www.londontreasures.com.

As the author of an article in The Economist Millennium Issue, December 23rd 1999 (400 years after the Globe Theatre opened), wrote:
'It's impossible now to unknow Shakespeare. The words are quotations, the plays no longer plays but interpretations of plays. The playwright himself has become a sort of one-man band, with a cacophony of instruments strapped on all over him: academia on his back, a drum thumping with conferences and careers; the theatre on his shoulders, bristling with logos and sponsorship and more careers; business bursting from his pockets, spilling heritage enterprises, mugs and T-shirts, the whole monstrous spectacle shimmering with 400 years of reputation.

'Shakespeare was no sooner dead than his fellow playwright Ben Jonson hailed him as "not of an age, but for all time". In the 18th century he became the National Poet; in the 19th, a secular saint; in the 20th, political radicals and liberal humanists alike have claimed him for themselves. Continental Europe and Russia joined in, from the late 18th century onwards. True, Voltaire had called Shakespeare a barbarian for neglecting the rules of neo-classical dramaturgy upheld by Corneille and Racine (whose plays, besides, were performed across Europe, as Shakespeare's, then, were not). But it was just his roughness, as it was deemed, that excited the Romantics' imagination, seeming to capture the very spirit of rebellion.'
The Complete Works are available at http://the-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/works.html, and you can search the text of all the Bard's plays and poems at http://www.it.usyd.edu.au/~matty/Shakespeare/test.html.