Thursday, April 23, 2009

Birthday Bard

William Shakespeare, English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. Was born on this day in 1564. He is credited with at least 38 plays (which have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright) as well as 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems.

For a man of such enduring words - and, OH, what words! - Shakespeare didn't leave all that much of a paper trail, and so much of what we 'know' about his life is based on speculation and conjecture ... informed speculation and conjecture, true, but all that nonetheless. In fact, that's what comprises my favorite 'bio' of the Bard, "
Will In the World by Stephen Greenblatt ... a great deal of informed speculation, arising from the pittance of documented facts we have about the man and his life.

Of course, such speculation also opens the door for some entertaining flights of fancy, whether it's an episode of "Doctor Who" or a favorite movie of mine, "Shakespeare In Love."

It really is difficult to describe, with any sense of adequacy, the impact Shakespeare's work has had on us all ... and not just here, in the west. Just last weekend, Younger Son and I were watching "Throne of Blood," one of a number of stories by Shakespeare, adapted for Japanese cinema by Akira Kurosawa. And, sometimes, the influence might be much smaller ... yet still significant ... where would would Tolkien's Lord of the Rings be without Treebeard and the ents? And where would THEY be if a young Tolkien hadn't once speculated on what it would be like if Birnam Wood actually DID march on Dunsinane Castle?

"There was a star danced, and under that was I born."

William Shakespeare - Digital Collection

The Internet Shakespeare Editions

The Royal Shakespeare Company website

Shakespeare's Will, in Latin

William Shakespeare at Find A Grave

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