“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”
William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
Today is National Shakespeare Day. There is a great deal being said about his brilliance, his writing style and theatrical beginnings. Some include a timeline from birth to his death, which incidentally occurred on the same day – April 23rd – fifty-two years apart. It has been 450 years since his birth and still we talk about him. Why?
Because he was a storyteller!
Shakespeare gave us stories that resonate within the human heart, advising that “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” His words bridge the centuries with verse that draws on a range of human emotions, reminding us that each of us has a part to play.
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,
His acts being seven ages.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Shakespeare may be a household word, but most of us remember him from school days, when we were required to read one of his plays, knowing that we would be asked to regurgitate someone’s idea of what the play was all about. For many, this was a painful process, especially since a grade was attached to these assignments. I wonder what Shakespeare would think of this practice?
Several years ago, I went back to Shakespeare when I read Peter Ackroyd’s “Shakespeare: The Biography” which was published in 2006. I chose this book specifically because Peter Ackroyd is a self-proclaimed enthusiast instead of an expert on Shakespeare. I was more interested in William Shakespeare as a flesh and blood person, rather than a distant, inaccessible genius. I was not disappointed. Peter Ackroyd transported me to the time of Elizabeth I, where drama, intrigue and schemes flourished. William Shakespeare’s years were filled with humour, joy, tragedy and love. A life well lived.
“All’s well if all ends well.”
14 thoughts on “A Day for Shakespeare – April 23, 2014”
A very true quotation that of the world beeing a stage, taken from ‘As you like it’. I remember another one, from Macbeth,act 5, scene 5,
‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
God may deliver us from having such a pesimistic vision of life.
I was very pleased, again, to comment in your blog.
This is one of my most favourite passages!!! Indeed, it is much better to rejoice in every moment so that our stories give meaning to our lives and those who come after us. I am very pleased to receive your comments! 🙂
Just now finding time to read this blog post! My mother studied English and did her Master’s thesis on the proposition that some of the Shakespeare plays were written by none other than Queen Elisabeth, herself. I believe you read a blog post in which i mentioned that.
What a fascinating subject to chose for a thesis! Yes, I did read that post. These discussions are so very important because it gives us insight into a remarkable time in history. I often wonder what future generations will think of our time. 🙂
Yes, I remember those classrooms–Shakespeare must be read and evaluated. What a joy to just read him for enjoyment. Probably not totally understood but challenging always.
Somehow I think that William Shakespeare would like us to read it for pure enjoyment. Peter Ackroyd was an excellent biographer and I think that I will reread it again. 🙂
The more I read his works, the more in awe I am of him. His ability to tell a story – as you point out – his characters, the poetry of so many of his lines.
I agree wholeheartedly. By the way, I thought of you when I was listening to his video! They are going back to “OP” or original pronunciation. Quite amazing.
I’ve read so many of his plays – Macbeth and King Lear are my favorites. I’m sure his biography is just as fascinating.
“Double, double, toil and trouble;Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!” William Shakespeare, Macbeth. I loved MacBeth! But it was King Lear that had me from the start – how could someone not see through the deception.
“And in thy best consideration check
This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement
Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds
Reverb no hollowness.”
― William Shakespeare, King Lear
The biography was fascinating, but quite long. I didn’t read it in one sitting. There was so much background to each of the plays, which were set in time sequence. But I think that I will reread it in the future. Peter Ackroyd has many other books that I’m interested in reading. He wrote the biography of the Thames River, which I find quite fascinating. Here is a short video re: his history of England.
A very good question. What would Shakespeare have thought about becoming an examination subject? What does any author or poet think about having their works examined?
I have often wondered that too! One thing that I learned from Peter Arkroyd’s biography was that Shakespeare enjoyed life and liked being surrounded by friends and family. In fact, the night before he died, he was out with friends at a local pub.
“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” William Shakespeare
Thank you, Rebecca. I love Shakespeare! ! Your post has once again stimulated my interest to look for Peter Ackroyd’s “Shakespeare: The Biography”. But there are so many things to read!….
I know exactly what you mean, Denise! So many books and so little time. AAAHGGH I am learning to pick and choose more carefully because I don’t think that I will have time to get to all of them….
But isn’t that wonderful!!!
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