Happy Birthday to the Bard

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hello world!
| April 28, 2023

When I say the name William Shakespeare, I’m sure nightmares of high school literature homework come to mind. But we owe a lot to the Bard.

William Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564, in Stratford on Avon in England, and died the same day in 1616. He wrote 37 plays and over 300 poems/sonnets.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford Upon Avon

With his works being over 400 years old, it would be fair to question why we still talk about him today. Why are we still reimagining his works after all this time? Late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert asked actor David Tennant why he thought Shakespeare still resonates. “He’s got a way of getting to the nub of what it is to be human, better than anyone has before or since..” was Tennent’s response. Tennant had just completed a run of a modernized version of Much Ado About Nothing in London’s West End.

David Tennant & Catherine Tate as Benedick & Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

Phrases, characters, and stories from his works permeate all types of media and the English language we use in our daily life. Think this doesn’t apply to you? Think again.

Beatles Hard Day’s Night album

You can find Shakespeare in music:

  • Hard Days Night by the Beatles (Richard III)
  • Sigh no More by Mumford & Sons (Much Ado About Nothing)
  • The Evil That Men Do by Iron Maiden (Julius Caesar)
  • Cruel to be Kind by Nick Lowe (Hamlet)

Films: 

  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew)
  • Warm Bodies (Romeo & Juliet)
  • She’s the Man (12th Night)
  • Get Over It (Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • O (Othello)
  • The Lion King (Hamlet)
Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles as Patrick and Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You

His works are also sometimes used as plot devices in films like Dead Poets Society and Renaissance Man.  As well as TV shows like Star Trek.

We use his phrases in our everyday lives:

  • “All that glitters is not gold.” (Merchant of Venice)
  • “A laughing stock” (Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • “It’s Greek to me.” (Julius Ceasar)
  • “Stabbed in the back/Back Stabber” (Julius Ceasar)
  • “Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve” (Othello)
  • “Too much of a good thing” (As You Like It)
  • “Break the ice” (Taming of the Shrew)
  • “Come what may” (Macbeth)
  • “Fair play” (Tempest)

As you see, the Bard’s fingerprints are everywhere. If you had a nightmarish time with Shakespeare in school, try it again with all these things in mind. You may find that you love his work.

Thank you, sir, for your contributions to literature, entertainment, and language. Happy birth month.

 In 2016, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company teamed up for a 400-year celebration called Shakespeare Live. It is available for purchase or rent here.

https://cdn.jwplayer.com/previews/V6AxpjK4

Want to dip your toes into the written works of Shakespeare? You can read his works for free here.

What is your favorite Shakespeare reference or adaptation? 

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