A very merry, happy birthday to William Shakespeare. I am not a literary critic, I do not plan to present to you a long winded thesis full of quotations and complex analysis meant to demonstrate Shakespeare’s significance. Thank goodness, eh?
And this is precisely my point. I do not have to do such a thing. The value of Shakespeare’s works are 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, and perhaps a touch of the strife it takes to comprehend ye olde English.
I am thankful for Shakespeare’s existence because of the beautiful, complex, goofy, and horrid depictions of humanity he provided to society. More specifically: without discouraging any audience members, by making his product restrictive to just a few privileged people, to a single class – he has become one of the most prolific 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 the populace achieved a basic grammar school education, if that much, and yet today… we really struggle to actively engage high school seniors with Shakespeare. Nerdy, little I took a Shakespeare elective 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 relevance in this age: Shakespeare, 400-something years ago, wrote 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 penned to paper, and has had shouted from stages the world over through the centuries. 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 personal 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.