I first met The Bard in my Year 10 English class when we studied The Scottish play, Macbeth. Studied might be a bit too rich a word for my Year 10 self, but I recall we went to a live performance of Macbeth, which was a pretty big deal. Anyway my introduction to Shakespeare, witches and all, has stayed with me and over the years has grown into a love affair.
Shakespeare has much to say about human nature and he explores our emotions and vices in an astonishing variety of comedies, tragedies and histories. In Shakespeare we meet kings and queens, princes and merchants, priests, soldiers, clowns, drunkards, murderers, pimps, whores, witches, fairies, monsters and ghosts and explore every human emotion from the purest to the vilest. During his life he wrote 37 plays and 145 sonnets and more than 450 years since his birth, all around the Globe, students in secondary and tertiary institutions still study Shakespeare because in his works he reflects back to us our humanity, which does not change.
Shakespeare’s exact birth date is not known, but it is recognised as April 23rd 1564. His date of death is accurate and he died on April 23rd 1616. This means he died on his 52nd birthday. If I was teaching Shakespeare at this time we would have a Party for Bill. Half the class would wear a blue “It’s a Boy” badge and the other half would wear a black RIP armband.
In our travels my husband and I have visited Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, stayed at Mary Arden Inn, toured Glamis Castle in Scotland, visited the Forum in Rome where Caesar was stabbed, and walked the Rialto in Venice. The highlight for me was our tour through The Globe Theatre in London and attending a live performance in the Globe. Thank goodness we purchased tickets for seats and we were undercover as during the performance it rained heavily and the groundlings, the people who had purchased cheaper tickets, but had to stand on the ground were being soaked. Several of them tried to sneak into the lower seats under cover but the staff came around and shooed them back out into the rain. The best they could do was purchase a plastic poncho for a little protection.
Today we view Shakespeare as a literary genius and many of our common sayings and phrases have come directly from his works. Shakespeare is the second most quoted writer in the English language, second only to the Bible. In his day he was entertainment not only for the masses who flocked to see his bawdy and earthy plays as groundlings, paying a penny each but also for royalty. Queen Elizabeth 1st and following her death, King James 1st were patrons of Shakespeare’s theater company providing money for costumes and props.
Don’t let the language of Shakespeare put you off. He is a great story teller and our world is richer for his words.