Along came a Shakespeare…

England summer

Did Shakespeare ever gaze upon sunsets like this one? I like to think so. Image courtesy of Jusben, Morguefile.

My main man, William Shakespeare, celebrates his birthday two days from now, on April 23. Depending upon the source you read, it can be his birthday or his death day — nobody knows Shakespeare’s exact date of birth for certain.

I’ve always said that Shakespeare knew human psychology better than anyone else — that was the genius of the man. How delighted he would be to know that people are still performing his plays almost 400 years after his lifetime, don’t you think?

Shakespeare also had a unique way with insults. Some of those insults are so out there, they make me giggle. I can only imagine the difficulty a professional actor must have in keeping a straight face while saying some of these lines:

Henry IV, Part 2: “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” (I’ll keep my catastrophe well out of range and un-tickled, thank you very much.)

Romeo and Juliet: “Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit.” (Who knew being a half-wit was so painful?)

Then there are others that are so incredibly appropriate, even today’s audiences can relate:

Antony and Cleopatra: “Rogue, thou hast liv’d too long.” (I know a number of people who perfectly fit this quote.)

Hamlet: “This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.” (Spoken about the courtier Osric with a fancy hat, as I recall. I can relate — I’ve seen some hats so big, they could house an entire family in there.)

Poet Ben Jonson in his poem To The Memory Of My Beloved The Author, Mr. William Shakespeare does a pun on Shakespeare’s name in one line of the poem about “shaking a lance”. Clever, Ben, very clever.

Shakespeare’s plays contain jealousy, envy, joy, mischief, functional or dysfunctional family relationships, love, kindness and stupidity to the point of comedy, so what’s not to like? It’s even better when talented actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter, David Tennant and Tom Hiddleston bring those characters to life.

So if you’re in a celebratory mood this Thursday, take a moment to toast Bill the Bard. He’s given us a lot of good entertainment over the centuries. Or sing along with Ben Kingsley’s song that wraps up the movie, “Twelfth Night”. (Video credit: vanefreja86, YouTube.)



Filed under Writing

14 responses to “Along came a Shakespeare…

  1. Somehow when I think of Shakespeare I think of the tragedies. We have a local Shakespeare theatre and have seen them all at least once, most more. I refuse to see any plays where everyone dies! But speaking of hilarious quips, I am a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan. What can you say about a team who locates a play in Titipupu?

    • “I am the very model of a modern major-general/I’ve information animal, vegetable and mineral/I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical/From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical!”

      G&S fan here too. Ever seen the version with Rex Smith and Kevin Kline? Perfection.

  2. Thanks for the head’s up. Shakespeare is always quotable. No one was pithier or funnier. I’ve never been as fond of reading Shakespeare as I am of watching the plays. I can still quote huge sections of Lear and Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet.

  3. I’ll admit it. I’m not too proud. I just don’t get Shakespeare. I need a translator and cliff notes. But . . . you captured lovely (and funny) passages. Those I could get!

    • In high school, I used to call him “Shakes-fear” when we had to read him for class. Having the plays acted onstage or in movies makes the meaning clearer, to my mind.

      Shakespeare was using the slang of his era, which his audience would have understood. Sadly, most of those words have long gone out of common use.

  4. Wonderful tribute to mark ‘the man”s birthday!

  5. (trying to catch up …running…running) Lovely tribute. There is so much to enjoy with Shakespeare. Wish every reader manages to at some point in life find a teacher or lover of Shakespeare who is able to open that world to them. It’s timeless: something for everyone and always something new you never saw before. Of course the insults and wit – enough to intrigue even the most reluctant underachiever – or the other end of the scale.


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