A very merry, happy birthday to William Shakespeare. I am hardly a literary critic, I took just 2 writing courses at university – forget about formal English studies… so I cannot present to you a longwinded essay full of quotations and analyzations meant to demonstrate Shakespeare’s significance (and thank goodness, right?!).
This is my precise point. I do not have to do such a thing. It’s understood by all. Anyone who has read a Shakespeare play, even so much as a sonnet or two, has felt the weight of his words.
I am thankful for Shakespeare’s existence because of the beautiful depictions of humanity he provided to society. Without discouraging any potential audience member by making his product restrictive to just a few privileged people, to a single class, he has become one of the most significant historic figures that ever lived.
I think this might be the greatest irony regarding most of his works, they were so common. Meant for an audience of ordinary people, at the time with a basic grammar school education, if even that much!, and yet today… we can’t even get high school students to actively engage with Shakespeare – this coming from an alum of an excellent public school in the excellent Massachusetts public school system! Thankfully, culture of most any form has always thrilled me, so by my own volition I took a Shakespeare elective course my senior year.
Now I have to say something that might be off putting, but this is how I see Shakespeare, this is why I felt compelled to write about him today, this is why I think he was so revolutionary and still holds incredible significance in this age: Shakespeare, 400-something years ago, has written it all. People, you can have your “classics”: your Russian masterpieces, your English romantics, your French novelists… but we must recognize that the bulk of their words are the reiteration of what Shakespeare has already written. So if you have read his plays, that is all that you need, you just might be a complete human being (I have yet to complete this task, making no claims here).
A bit of hilarity:
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. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then, the whining school-boy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then, a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then, the justice,
In fair round belly, with a good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.