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William Shakespeare would have been 448 today if he hadn’t caught that awful spring cold and died. Every year I celebrate his birthday by ordering a cake from the bakery.  Some years I have the baker write, “Happy xxx birthday, Master Shakespeare,” but as this year’s cake is only seven inches in diameter, the birthday greeting will have to be somewhat abbreviated. Here’s a photo of last year’s cake:


When I was gainfully employed, on April 23rd I would summon my coworkers to the conference room where the birthday cake would be displayed in front of a large poster of Shakespeare. Then I would quiz them to ascertain whether any of them had done something even remotely Shakespeare-related for as long as ten consecutive minutes during the past year.

One year a young lady won by saying she’d come in hot and tired from a bicycle ride, seized the nearest book to hand—a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets—and sat down to read her favorites. Another year someone said he’d watched a movie based on Romeo and Juliet, so I awarded the prize to him. The prize was usually a mug or a magnet with Shakespeare’s own mug on it. It need hardly be said that my coworkers looked on me as a lunatic.

But I didn’t care. My husband regards the annual celebration of this particular anniversary with equanimity, mostly because Shakespeare’s birthday cake—yellow with chocolate icing, decorated with roses of yellow frosting—happens to be his own favorite cake.  (I should explain that cake is only allowed in our house when someone has a birthday.)

Why is Shakespeare’s birthday important not just to me, but to all of us?

Well, think how much we owe him!  Many of the expressions we use in everyday speech come from him.  “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth/It is to have a thankless child” comes right from Shakespeare (King Lear). And “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” which some mistakenly attribute to Ben Franklin, comes from none other than the Bard. (See Hamlet.)

When one is in the right mood, it is possible to become completely intoxicated by reciting certain speeches from Shakespeare’s plays. Can’t you just imagine a passionate young Marcus Antonius standing in the Forum, toga half-slipping off his shoulders, as he cries,

    Friends, Romans, countrymen!  Lend me your ears
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…

Or John of Gaunt’s thrilling speech:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise…
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Or think of Prospero the wizard renouncing magic, his life’s work, which many think was a metaphor for Shakespeare’s taking leave of the London stage, his own life’s work:

……..But this rough magic
    I here abjure, and, when I have required
    Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
    To work mine end upon their senses that
    This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
    Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
    And deeper than did ever plummet sound
    I'll drown my book.

In the spring of 1965 I was a romantic young person, wandering through England all by myself.  For as long as I could remember, England had beckoned to me across all of my enthusiasms—the William books by Richmal Crompton when I was a child, the novels of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, the poetry of Keats, Shelley, and Rossetti, the lonely and ultimately tragic figure of T. E. Lawrence, and—more recently—the Beatles. So I saved my money and set off across the Atlantic to see “this scepter’d isle,” Perfidious Albion, this blessed plot.

We’d lived in Colonial Singapore in the early 1950s, so my mother wrote to friends who had returned to England and asked them to meet me at Heathrow. They did so, and bore me off to their house in Surrey. Of their children I remembered a tall, serious daughter who was always studying and a younger son, who’d been my playmate.  All I could remember of him was very blue eyes in a sunburned face.

On meeting said son for the first time in ten years I took one look and fell like a stone.  Of course this mad passion was both unrequited and unspoken, and of course the only person who understood, the only person who was any comfort at all, was William Shakespeare.  

Wandering through England I came at last to Stratford-upon-Avon. I visited the Bard’s birthplace, saw a couple of plays, and bought a book of his sonnets at New Place, which had been turned into a museum. I fell upon the tiny book and began reading avidly.

Shakespeare knew exactly how it felt to live all day in the hope of seeing the loved one:

    Being your slave, what should I do but tend
    Upon the hours and times of your desire?
    I have no precious time at all to spend,
    Nor services to do, till you require.

Head reeling with the realization that Shakespeare knew all about unrequited love, I walked the mile from Stratford to Shottery, pausing at the little footbridge over the stream to wonder if he had stopped at that very spot on his way to visit Anne Hathaway.

Sometime all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight
Save what is had, or must from you be took.

All that divine, silvery English spring I burned with this infatuation. I even started writing sonnets about the object of it, discovering to my delight that the rhyme scheme of the Shakespearean sonnet was a hell of a lot easier than that of the Petrarchan sonnet. Those sonnets have been lost in the mists of time, very likely:  until I got married my family moved constantly, so quite a number of things were lost.

It’s great to live in a time when Shakespeare (along with Jane Austen) has become more accessible to the masses. A young man about town in the late 1980s told me that “absolutely everyone” was going to see Kenneth Branagh in the film, Henry V. I went to see it too and was enraptured. Growing up with my Anglophile father, who revered English literature as he revered nothing else, I had often watched as Edward bounded around the living room bellowing, “God for Harry, England, and St. Ge-o-rge!”

Another Branagh film, Much Ado About Nothing, was also very well done.  I confess to being old-fashioned:  I want to see Shakespeare’s plays enacted in the setting in which he wrote them.  I don’t like seeing King Lear in modern dress, nor Richard III in Nazi uniforms.

So let’s lift a glass in honor of Will, the man who enriched both our language and our imaginations immeasurably, and think of him as he thought of his love:

Who is it that says most, which can say more,
Than this rich praise, that you alone are you…

Who, indeed.

Originally posted to Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Theatricals, DKOMA, and Community Spotlight.

Poll

How often do you do anything Shakespeare-related?

36%40 votes
33%36 votes
20%22 votes
6%7 votes
3%4 votes

| 109 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  I too loved Much Ado About Nothing, forsooth. (11+ / 0-)

    But Keanu Reeves doing Shakespeare?

    That was almost funnier than Michael Keaton.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 05:26:07 AM PDT

  •  Richard II famous for Gaunt's lines, but (9+ / 0-)

    Shakespeare (or Oxford ???) gives Richard some good lines too:

    The pacing is a bit fast on this one, but Burton's great skill comes through.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 05:44:20 AM PDT

  •  I hear you on "modern dress" and Shakespeare (8+ / 0-)

    Although I don't agree.  Ian McKellan was brilliant in the Richard III in nazi-style dress.  My parents and brother saw it on stage, and tell me that was even better.

    And then there are adaptations which, for me, shine.  Kurosawa did several adaptations, all of which are brilliant.  His first independently produced film was The Bad Sleep Well, which is a riff on Hamlet.  Throne of Blood is a more "classical" adaptation of Macbeth set in samurai-era Japan, as is Ran, which I would argue is the best take on King Lear ever filmed.

    I appreciate Olivier's film version of Hamlet the best, probably because it was the first I ever saw.  I think making the "To be or not to be" soliliquy internal is a brilliant choice:

    My favorite "surprise" moment was when Ben Kingsley was on Inside the Actors Studio (starts at 6:08 of the portion below):

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:06:09 AM PDT

    •  I'm often a traditionalist, but not WRT the Bard.. (6+ / 0-)

      I have loved Shakespeare since I was a kid. My high school english teacher made me love The Marriage of True Minds by talking about his wife. (Even though he turned out to develop crushes on his high school students.)

      But for the past several years I have been loving Lisa Wolpe's interpretations. She is amazing. I could barely sit through The Merchant of Venice it was so alive, so terrible is the word I want to use, though not the acting or staging.

      She is spending a year at the Festival in Oregon now which is so wonderful because she I believe Shakespeare is her life's work.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:31:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I respectively disagree (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aravir, Diana in NoVa, nellgwen

      ...on the Nazi-era Richard III; I did not care for it.  I have a wierd memory, which is useful in my thesbian endeavors, but I can still recite the opening soliloquy to Richard III, which I had to memorize for a clas in high school [redacted] years ago.

      GOP Agenda: Repeal 20th Century.

      by NormAl1792 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:11:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with you (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NormAl1792, peregrine kate

           I watched probably 30 seconds of the Nazi-era Richard III.
            I hate it when they do that. But I do like Horrible Histories and The Reduced Shakespeare Abridged.

           

         

          I also liked The documentary Looking For Richard.

        "Herring and oranges, herring and oranges, anyone?" (sigh) "Turnips and anchovies?" (sigh) "Coffee?" Nellgwen

        by nellgwen on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 01:35:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  ethan hawke does the soliloquy in a Blockbuster (0+ / 0-)

      store ... I love it.

      Notice how Bill laid out the 'moderate' Democratic strategy for 1976 to the current date - this following predates the DLC, Third Way, New Dems ...

      ---
      Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
          And thus the native hue of resolution
          Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
          And enterprises of great pith and moment
          With this regard their currents turn awry,
          And lose the name of action.

      rmm.

      Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

      by seabos84 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:32:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My younger son's birthday too. n/t (7+ / 0-)

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:16:43 AM PDT

  •  And here's EXACTLY where he was born (10+ / 0-)

    here's the place:
    Photobucket

    Aand here's the house:
    Photobucket

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:16:56 AM PDT

    •  Oh, these are great photos! (4+ / 0-)

      Thanks, exlrrp!  Did you see the "baby minder" gadget in his birthplace?  That pole with a little round doughnut fixed to it, not far from the floor?  The toddler would be put inside the doughnut and then would grasp the rim as he or she ran round and round.  I thought that was so funny.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:31:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  memories (7+ / 0-)

      And right next door to that is the Stratford public library where i spent hours devouring books as a kid.

      In those days (late 1950s early 1960's) when I was a Stratford resident I was allowed free access to any of the Shakespeare properties. All you had to do was turn up at the entrance and say 'I am a Burger (or Burgess in the case of my mother) ' and they waved you through.

      We could also get tickets for the theatre cheap - half-a-crown in the old British money. I saw Paul Robeson play Othello...

      On The Birthday there was always a big public celebration and I was one of the kids who performed folk dances on the green beside the theatre. I do sometimes wonder if there are any US tourists who snapped these 'cute' scenes who have pictures of me in old scrapbooks.

      Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

      by saugatojas on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:49:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent clips! (5+ / 0-)

    When the Olivier clip opened I thought he might be contemplating hurling himself into the sea. Yes, the internal monologue was a good choice, as were the music and the setting on top of the castle.

    I never truly appreciated the workings of poor Hamlet's mind until I saw Paul Gross play him years ago in Stratford, Ontario.  That performance was riveting.

    The Ben Kingsley surprise was a good one!  Thanks for sharing. :)

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:26:21 AM PDT

  •  Shakespere had a really excellent idea (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NormAl1792, nellgwen, peregrine kate

    That I am not sure I can post here! :)

    "Stupid is as stupid does" - The republican motto you can believe in as they live it daily!

    by Mannie on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:04:37 AM PDT

  •  And he (officially) died on the same day .... (6+ / 0-)

    ..... as another literary giant, Miguel de Cervantes - although they were actually a few days apart (as Britain had not yet switched to the Gregorian calendar). Still, the official dates are enough to have April 23rd declared "International Day of the Book".

    "We should pay attention to that man behind the curtain."

    by Ed Tracey on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:19:04 AM PDT

  •  I'll never forget the time when, during my largely (17+ / 0-)

    undistinguished career, I was working as a "humble clerk" at Headquarters Marine Corps in Rosslyn, Virginia.  As I sat at my desk typing a letter I overheard the colonel at the desk two rows down telling one of the two majors, "I have to get a new Shakespeare.  My old one is completely worn out."

    For several hours I typed letters in a glow, delirious at the thought of a colonel who'd read his copy of Shakespeare so much that he'd worn it out and now had to buy a new one.  Then I found out that a "Shakespeare" was a fishing rod

    Talk about disillusionment!  I've never been quite the same since.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:28:53 AM PDT

  •  big Shakespeare lover here... (7+ / 0-)

    I'd do a marathon of the videos you mentioned here, and and a few more, but there is the matter of having to work today. Republished to Theatricals!

    and then there is this for anyone who needs a brief fix:

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:35:59 AM PDT

  •  I'm completely charmed that you trotted (6+ / 0-)

    your cow-orkers into the office and hosted a Shakespeare contest. That is lovely.

    Every year I try to get to Tim Robbins' free summer performance of one of the comedies. His group hosts a kid workshop and then they perform at a nearby park in Culver City. There is a carnival atmosphere and people sit on the lawn and watch the kids and adults romp. It's so playful.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:37:27 AM PDT

  •  I suffered through most of the David Tennant (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NormAl1792, 714day, peregrine kate

    "Hamlet"--would have stuck with it, only the tape ran out. I'd seen Branagh and Olivier as Hamlet years ago and many years ago, respectively, and while the DT portrayal was an eye-opener, it wasn't in a good way. He was all foaming HATRED of every last person around him, except possibly Horatio. "Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest?" I hope not. Let's see: who's dead at the end because of him?

    Laertes (murdered)

    Gertrude

    Claudius

    Ophelia (played shriekingly over the top, I might add)

    Rosencrantz & Guildenstern The lines about their demise were cut, but let's not forget that Hamlet not only had them killed, he wanted them damned--they were not to be shriven before execution

    Did I miss any?

    •  David Tennant is awesome! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      714day, niemann, nellgwen

      Cue Dr. Who intro here :)

      "Stupid is as stupid does" - The republican motto you can believe in as they live it daily!

      by Mannie on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:22:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hated his portrayal. Blech and double blech. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sue B, 714day, nellgwen
        •  He was FAR better than Eccleston! n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          714day

          "Stupid is as stupid does" - The republican motto you can believe in as they live it daily!

          by Mannie on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:34:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Tom Baker is the real one.... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mannie, Greenfinches

            tho I must confess I remember William Hartnell and series 1.  

            Tom Baker it has to be.  Accept no substitutes!!

            •  Tom Baker is the best (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              koosah

              Can NOT argue that!

              I saw the very end of Pertwee, Tom Baker was SO much better!

              As for accept no substitutes, well the Doctor does regenerate, and as such you need to move on :)

              Some Doctors are better than others, and I say COLIN Baker, was by far the worst :)

              "Stupid is as stupid does" - The republican motto you can believe in as they live it daily!

              by Mannie on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:50:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Actually, I'm amazed at how quickly I can ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... adapt to all the Doctors.  I can watch stories from any period and immediately accept each actor as that character -- although of course some are more special than others.  As usual, the first encountered is often a favorite, and so of course Tom Baker and Peter Davison are special to me.

                Jon Pertwee is probably the one who least clicks with me, but I can accept even him.  I quite liked Colin Baker, once he settled into the role ... but he was also hampered by being the Doctor during one of the worse periods in the show's history, with a producer who was becoming increasingly "commercial"-minded (which relates to the horrible costume Baker was forced to wear), and a BBC that was actively trying to sabotage the show in order to cancel it.

                And to tie this thread back into Shakespeare -- how many great English Shakespearean actors have performed roles in Doctor Who?  Derek Jacobi ... Richard Briers ... Julian Glover ... starting off the top of my head.

            •  Yes, I"m not a big fan of Doctor Who, but (0+ / 0-)

              even I can appreciate the brilliance of Tom Baker and his enormous scarf.

              "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

              by Kimball Cross on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:53:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  I'm talking about Hamlet, not Dr. Who. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            714day
      •  2 years ago saw Hamlet off broadway in NYC (0+ / 0-)

        and the Polonius was unbelievable - the gentleman had started acting a looooooooooooooooong time ago -

        there was only 1 Drapes and Curtain "THEE!" "THOU!" actor - the rest made the stuff sound like everyday speech.

        it was so good.

        rmm.

        Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

        by seabos84 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:38:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  My favorite "Hamlet" (here come flames) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      niemann

      is Zefferelli's. It was extraordinarily accessible and brilliantly performed. Yes, even Mel Gibson - maybe because he is a mess in real life.
      Glenn Close, Alan Bates, Ian Holm, Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Scofield.
      The edited script was as smooth as silk, too.

      •  Actually, I like it very much too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        714day

        Being a Zefferelli, I am of course especially struck by the textured, historical look of it all.

        It is indeed simplified, making it more accessible ... but so what?  It's another valid take on the play.

        And Paul Scofield was the most subtle, affecting ghost I've ever seen.

        •  Scofield was wonderful. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          niemann, peregrine kate

          Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia is spectacular, as well. I'd have a hard time faulting any performance in this gem.
          And re: the screenplay, I discovered that nearly all versions of Hamlet are elided since it would take about 4 - 4 1/2 hours to perform in it's entirety.

  •  Or maybe not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NormAl1792

    Shakespeare's actual date of birth is unknown; it is speculative based on his baptismal date and probably chosen because April 23rd is his death date.

    Some people are intolerant, and I CAN'T STAND people like that. -- Tom Lehrer

    by TheCrank on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:39:59 AM PDT

  •  LONG LIVE WILLIE THE SHAKE!!! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    I count even the single grain of sand to be a higher life-form than the likes of Sarah Palin and her odious ilk.

    by Liberal Panzer on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:17:51 AM PDT

  •  Quarterly. THat's what I'd have voted. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ivorybill, Diana in NoVa

    Great diary.
    Thank you.

    Unless quoting to my children counts in which case it's weekly.

    Please Vote for the Democratic nominee for President in 2012.

    by mungley on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:28:45 AM PDT

  •  He picked a good day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, Portlaw

    Because its also my birthday! : )

    Not quite as old as he though.

    GDoyle

    "Deserves got nothing to do with it"-William Munny, "Unforgiven"

    by GDoyle on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:36:54 AM PDT

    •  Happy birthday! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GDoyle

      Hope it's a great day!

      Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

      by Debby on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 02:31:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was Lady Macbeth (7+ / 0-)

    in an English class re-enactment of key scenes of Macbeth. I trust that it's safe to admit to this now that the literary statute of limitations has elapsed. I went on to a brilliant career having nothing to do with the theater.

    Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle. -- Woody Allen

    by cassandracarolina on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:41:40 AM PDT

  •  You've inspired me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    to download Shakespeare's plays onto my kindle. I'll start tonight.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by JamieG from Md on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:48:31 AM PDT

  •  What's weird is (0+ / 0-)

    that Google isn't doing anything special for his birthday.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by JamieG from Md on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:49:56 AM PDT

  •  I love a good Shakespeare play (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, Diana in NoVa, nellgwen, ARS

    Fortunately, we are not too far from Spring Green Wisconsin, which has a theater that does Shakespeare all summer long, and does a pretty good job of it, too.

    I confess to a soft spot for that movie Shakespeare in Love... I love that scene, when the guy with the stutter can't speak his lines, but comes out on stage and nails it with such grace.  I loved the end of it, when Judy Dench makes sure that the boy doesn't get the girl after all, and Gwyneth Paltrow ends up cast upon the shores of (Virginia?), walking forever toward the New World, as Shakespeare writes the first lines of The Tempest.  

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:54:16 AM PDT

  •  Thank you so much for this diary! (5+ / 0-)

    When I taught high-school English and literature, I timed my annual Shakespeare unit to coincide with the Bard's birthday. We would bring in goodies and watch videos like "The Compleat Works of Wm. Shakespeare (Abridged)" or the "Taming of the Shrew" episode of "Moonlighting" (now you know how long ago I taught!).

    I, too, wandered throughout England as a youth in a literary daze of delight, and the experience of standing before Shakespeare's grave in Holy Trinity Church was nothing less than life-transcendent.

    Long may William Shakespears live in our hearts and in our culture.

    Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead. ~K. Vonnegut

    by Greek Goddess on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:58:40 AM PDT

    •  Oh, yes, Greek Goddess, and you undoubtedly read (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Greek Goddess, ivorybill

      the odd little stanza the Bard himself supposedly wrote:

      Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
      To dig the dust enclosed here
      Blest be he who spares these stones
      And curst be he who moves my bones.

      Some describe this as doggerel.  Well, even a genius like Shakespeare can have the occasional off-day.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:12:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The debate rages (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Greenfinches

        about whether or not Will penned these lines. I like to think not, but I won't begrudge the sentiment. An off-day of Shakespeare's is approximately like a stellar bestselling opus of any modern writer.

        Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead. ~K. Vonnegut

        by Greek Goddess on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:55:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  One hypothesis is he deliberately dumbed down (0+ / 0-)

        these verses in order to make sure even the dullest sexton would understand them and not try to move his grave. It worked so well, even his wife couldn't be buried with him.

        "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

        by Kimball Cross on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 05:35:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Does a more inspiring speech exist in (5+ / 0-)

    English literature than Henry V's speech before the Battle of Agincourt?

    Tears!  Everytime I hear it.  

    "North Korea is what America would look like if Republicans ran everything." Jeff Y

    by koosah on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:02:39 AM PDT

  •  Today is my birthday, too. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    714day, koosah, peregrine kate

    And my mom's birthday, for that matter. (Yes, I was her little birthday present Long Ago.) Very happy to share the day with her, with a first cousin, with Shakespeare, and even with… Shirley Temple!

  •  No, it's Christopher Marlowe's birthday. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bread, Anonyman

    Shakespeare was just ghost-born on that day.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:38:48 AM PDT

    •  I'm a firm believer that at least some of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rich in PA, niemann, littlewren, murasaki

      "Shakespeare's" works were actually written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, but that's a subject for a different diary.

      "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/single.php?ISBN=1-55404-900-8

      by Kimball Cross on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 09:54:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, dear (6+ / 0-)

      There are many who refuse to believe that a boy from a working-class family, who was too poor to attend university, could turn out to be a literary genius.

      Having known two geniuses in my lifetime, also from working-class families and who were too poor to attend university, I have no difficulty believing this premise at all.

      But perhaps you're just kidding.  ;)

      There are too many contemporary references to Shakespeare to dismiss.  In fact, as one literary historian has pointed out, Shakespeare's life is better documented than that of many of his contemporaries.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:16:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Although ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        nellgwen, littlewren, murasaki

        I will point out, in at least my own defense, that of the hundreds and hundreds of non-Stratfordian Shakespeare lovers I know, none -- not a single one -- hold this position ...

        There are many who refuse to believe that a boy from a working-class family, who was too poor to attend university, could turn out to be a literary genius.
        That is a mischaracterization -- the old "snobbery" ad hominem, strawman attack that is regularly thrown at non-Stratford-believers.  It is not at all the foundation of our non-belief.  

        We all know it is possible for working-class people who aren't university-educated to become gifted and brilliant writers.  It is just that we find that the works of Shakespeare don't seem at all to reflect someone of that background.

        But enough of that.  Again, cheers to Shakespeare!

        •  Written of deVere by Gabriel Harvey in an address (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          niemann

          to Queen Elizabeth in 1578,  that deVere was

          a prolific private poet and one "whose countenance shakes spears"

          Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

          by murasaki on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 05:38:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And it can be translated even more specifically: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            murasaki

            Harvey praised deVere by saying "vultus tela vibrat" ...

            "Vultus" often was translated as "countenance" ... but it is also based on the root related to "volition" ... i.e. the "will" ...

            In other words, Harvey can be interpreted as praising deVere by saying, "your will shakes spears".

            That's one of the many, many bits of circumstantial evidence that make me lean toward deVere;  nothing whatsoever to do with class or snobbery.

      •  You're right, Diana (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa, zinger99

        Bill Bryson, author of "A Short History of Nearly Everything" wrote a brief biography of William Shakespeare which eviscerates the history and persistence of the argument that anyone other than Williams Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  

        I happen to agree with you - the origin of this little rumor was very much based in class, and the idea that only a highly educated noble could write the texts that he did is not accurate.  Autodidacts- even then - had access to a lot more information than people now realize.

        The point is, very few people's lives were all that well documented and often the patterns and means of documentation were accidental.  His plays survived, thankfully.  Also there are records of his daughter and granddaughter until the 1670's.  He was not fictional; he existed and certainly was the author of those plays.

        “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

        by ivorybill on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 03:53:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I side w Baconian theory on shakespear (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    niemann
  •  Shakespeare in Russian (etc.) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    Two of the most cinematic (and best, IMHO) Shakespeare adaptations were made by the director Grigori Kozintsev, using poet Boris Pasternak's translations of Hamlet and King Lear.

    Not a fan of Kurosawa's (loose) adaptation of Lear, Ran  -- which I find to not even come close to Kozintsev's version.  But his (loose) adaptation of Macbeth (Throne of Blood / Spiderweb Castle) is quite good (especially Isuzu Yamada's "Lady Macbeth"). Kurosawa's (very loose) adaptation of Hamlet, The Bad Sleep Well, is also quite good.

    Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki has an interseting (also very loose) Hamlet adaptation -- Hamlet Goes Business, with Claudius as a ruthless CEO trying to get a world-wide monopoly on bathtub toys.

    Then, returning ro English, there is always Orson Welles' wonderful Chimes at Midnight, concocted out of various plays involving Prince Hal/Henry U and Falstaff.

  •  I'm agnostic on authorship of "Shakespeare" /nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    niemann
  •  Happy Birthday Will... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ivorybill

    Great to read this as I j finished reading last night a great book about the Bard called 'Will in the World', How Shakespeare became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt,  It's about the Elizabethan society that  Shakespeare lived and created his art in. The author is a Harvard Humanities, historian who also knows how to tell a tale full of ....

    His personal story is almost as fascinating as the tales he tells. A lot of mystery surrounds his personal life. This historian uses like Shakespeare did sources from past and present to place the reader in a fascinating time .

    A great book for anyone who loves or makes art. It places the playwrite/poet/player in his times and how he both transcended them and used them in his amazing creative process. Can't recommend it enough. Also a great political potboiler, a real page turner, as the world he lived in was the beginning of modern times and yet was still steeped in the Middle Ages and beyond.      

    After reading this I'm going to be renting a lot more videos of his plays, This year we watched The Tempest with Helen Mirren as a female Prospero. I loved it. We also recently watched Midsummer Night's Dream the 1935 version with young Mickey Rooney as Puck. Having seen several versions of this great comedy I liked this  the best. It captures the madness and dream like quality.

    Thanks for this diary.

    Will in the World
    http://www.amazon.com/...
                 

  •  I had exactly this experience myself ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, ivorybill, zinger99
    In the spring of 1965 I was a romantic young person, wandering through England all by myself.  For as long as I could remember, England had beckoned to me across all of my enthusiasms—the William books by Richmal Crompton when I was a child, the novels of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, the poetry of Keats, Shelley, and Rossetti, the lonely and ultimately tragic figure of T. E. Lawrence, and—more recently—the Beatles. So I saved my money and set off across the Atlantic to see “this scepter’d isle,” Perfidious Albion, this blessed plot.
    ... except that I went in 1992.

    I also visited all the T.E. Lawrence spots, such as his cottage in Moreton, and his St. Paul's Cathedral monument!

    For me it started with my third-grade teacher reading us The Hobbit.  From then on, it seems that all my favorite books, musicians and composers (classical and pop), films, TV shows, etc. have happened to be of English origin.  In fact, I immediately felt more at home there than I ever have in the U.S., and immediately seemed to know my way around London very easily.  

    I honestly wonder if it might be from having lived there in a previous life.  I'm especially drawn to the pre-WWII, early 20th Century, period in English history.

    It means a lot to me to hear someone else describe the same thing!

    •  We are twin souls, niemann! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ivorybill, niemann

      I sometimes wonder that--if I've lived there in a previous life.  I'm glad to know someone else feels that way!

      I went on a T. E. Lawrence pilgrimage too, to find the house in Oxford where he grew up and to see his cottage at Clouds Hill.  There was a Lawrence of Arabia exhibit in 2005 or 2006, which I went to see. If I remember correctly it was at the Imperial War Museum, one of my favorite places in London. The exhibit featured a tiny black velvet suit he'd worn at the age of three, a golden lock of his baby hair, and his desert robes, still magnificent-looking after all these years.

      I remember sitting in the public library in Tulsa, reading the letters T. E. wrote to his family in England while he was on a dig at Carchemish, thinking, "This man wrote these letters in 1913 and here I sit, 50 years later, reading them."

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 12:53:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of my favorite Lawrence memories ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa

        ... which perhaps I shouldn't share ... is arriving in Moreton on a Sunday, so Clouds Hill (now a National Trust property) was closed.

        I walked to it from the village, looked around and realized I could squeeze through into the newer parking area next to the cottage.  From the parking area, I realized I could squeeze under the fence on the path that led to the cottage -- so I did!  

        I then walked around Clouds Hill, and sat by it all by myself for about ten or fifteen minutes, with it looking exactly like it did in all the old photos.  It was like taking a trip back in time and I almost expected Lawrence to come walking out the door or riding up on his motorcycle.

        I also expected to get arrested any minute, but luckily it didn't happen!  I suppose now they would have video surveillance in such a place.

  •  Are you sure it's actually Shakespeare's birthday, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nellgwen

    or actually the birthday of another author of the same name who wrote all his plays?

    :)

    (cf Monty Python).

  •  Then, heigh ho, the holly! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    This life is most jolly.

    Happy Birthday, Bill.

    God be with you, Occupiers. God IS with you.

    by Hohenzollern on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 02:21:54 PM PDT

  •  A present then: (0+ / 0-)

    I'm participating in World Book Night and this came over my feed:

    World Book Night: Sonnets for Shakespeare's birthday

    A poet in Britain paired all of their WBN books with a Shakespeare sonnet and they're included in their additions. The link shows them. Lovely!

    Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

    by Debby on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 02:35:44 PM PDT

  •  jacobean Shakespeare (0+ / 0-)

    People usually think of Shakespeare in the context of the Elizabethan period. But he was of course active at the time of the accession of James 1 and V1 in 1603. Fascinating 3 part TV series on the BBC now about how Shakespeare responded artistically to the new uncertainties.

    i fear that you wont be able to see the clips in the USA though...

    By the way Shakespeare (the documented actor from Stratford) was under King James a Royal servant and frequented court in that capacity. He was for example present during the signing of the peace treaty between England and Spain in the early years of James' reign...

    Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

    by saugatojas on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 03:53:07 PM PDT

  •  No, Today Is My Birthday (0+ / 0-)

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 04:07:18 PM PDT

  •  My favorite take on Shakespeare (0+ / 0-)

    is found in the wonderful Canadian television series, Slings & Arrows

    the epic take on Hamlet's Soliloquy is shear genius.

    I envy those who haven't seen this series before, you get to watch it for the first time.

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 05:44:37 PM PDT

    •  ARS, that series stars my favorite actor, Paul (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ARS

      Gross.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:08:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I ran into Paul Gross once... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa

        ...literally.

        I was working on a show with David Keeley, Paul's songwriting partner and I bumped headlong into Paul on my way out the stage door. We did the classic "excuse me two-step", both apologized and I tore out of there so I wouldn't miss my bus home.

        That was about a year before I discovered Slings & Arrows.

        "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

        by ARS on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:37:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here's the cake I picked up today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, Fairlithe, niemann

    23 April 2012--Shakespeare's Birthday Cake

    I asked Dearly Beloved if he thought I was nuts for celebrating the Bard's birthday.  "Certainly not," he said.  It's nice to have support at home.  I must say, the cake was delicious--the confectioner did a really good job!

    Wish I could e-mail a slice to everyone here.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 06:21:03 PM PDT

  •  Two Shakespeare Thoughts today... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    seabos84, Diana in NoVa

    I'm back in school, as an English Major with a SecEd minor. The SecEd minor requires me to do observation hours, which I was doing today at my local high school. The Freshman class I observe had just delved into Romeo and Juliet, and, yes, the teacher mentioned the birthday :).

    Secondly, I'm taking Intro to Theater for one of my core requirements. One of the assignments is to go see this semester's production and write a report on it. It was last week and this week (I'm going this week, either Thursday or Saturday.) The production this year? Twelfth Night.

    "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

    by ChurchofBruce on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 07:24:25 PM PDT

  •  Such a sweet diary, Diana! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    Thanks for sharing your tradition and for inspiring so many interesting comments, especially with links.

    One of my favorite local theatre groups, the Mosaic Youth Theater in Detroit, has done some fabulously clever adaptations of his plays. Yes, they're edited, but most of the language is the original, and the productions are brilliant. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be high on their priority list for now, but what they did was creative and memorable.

  •  Two absolutely wonderful books about the bard: (0+ / 0-)

    That I strongly recommend to anyone who cares about Shakespeare. In fact, since I still am looking for Kossacks to start contributing to "My Favorite Authors' series, you may see a diary or two about them

    One is Stephen GreenBlatt's Will in the World

    The second is Isaac Asimov's Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare It is one of my favorite books and like everything the master wrote it is superb, dead-on accurate, and clear as Waterford crystal

    Enjoy

    An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

    by MichiganChet on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:21:11 PM PDT

    •  Yes, I read Will in the World and must read (0+ / 0-)

      Asimov.  My mother loved the latter book.

      What I find absolutely fascinating is the theory that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic.  It's quite reasonable to assume that not everyone was ready to give up the previous religion just because the authorities decreed they should.

      Shakespeare is worth a lifetime's study.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 04:42:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some of the BEST political thinking ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa

    Julius -

    let me have men about me who are fat
    sleek headed men, ... (see my sig line.)

    ----

    Lady M

    yet do I fear thy nature;
        It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
        To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;
        Art not without ambition, but without
        The illness should attend it:

    ----

    CASSIUS: Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
        Like a Colossus, and we petty men
        Walk under his huge legs and peep about
        To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

    (I put this at the end of my email when I worked at Microsoft ... then my boss got mad ...)

    ----

    Richard III

    Because I cannot flatter and speak fair,
        Smile in men's faces, smooth, deceive and cog,
        Duck with French nods and apish courtesy,
        I must be held a rancorous enemy.
        Cannot a plain man live and think no harm,
        But thus his simple truth must be abused
        By silken, sly, insinuating Jacks?

    (Ian does this role GREAT, in a 30's fascist England!)

    ----
    PAINTER: ...
     To promise is
        most courtly and fashionable: performance is a kind
        of will or testament which argues a great sickness
        in his judgment that makes it.

        [TIMON comes from his cave, behind]

    TIMON: [Aside]  Excellent workman! thou canst not paint a
        man so bad as is thyself.

    ----
    Evil Dick, again...

    But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
        Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
        And thus I clothe my naked villany
        With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
        And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

    -----

    Therefore, you men of Harfleur,
        Take pity of your town and of your people,
        Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command;
        Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace
        O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds
        Of heady murder, spoil and villany.
        If not, why, in a moment look to see
        The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
        Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
        Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
        And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
        Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
        Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
        Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
        At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
        What say you? will you yield, and this avoid,
        Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy'd?

    ----

    EXETER: Scorn and defiance; slight regard, contempt,
        And any thing that may not misbecome
        The mighty sender, doth he prize you at.

    ----
    Hamlet

    Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
        And thus the native hue of resolution
        Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
        And enterprises of great pith and moment
        With this regard their currents turn awry,
        And lose the name of action.

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:26:49 PM PDT

  •  I HATED it in middle and high school, then, a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, Diana in NoVa

    blizzard and I couldn't get the bus from Holyoke back to Providence - spring 1982 when I was 22 -

    and I starting reading Romeo and Juliet, and BAM !!!

    the language was just unbelievable ...

    THANKS to all my K-12 English teachers who put up with / endured my ignorant ass!!!!

    rmm.

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 08:29:41 PM PDT

  •  Yesterday was also my birthday (0+ / 0-)

    and sharing it with Will Shakespeare (and Michael Moore) is something about which I am endlessly proud.  My writings are not taken as favorably as his, but popularity has never been my goal :)  

    Once more into the breach!!

    Thank you for remembering Shakespeare's birthday in the wonderful way you do.  What I love about him is his ability to recognize and laugh at human foibles, and not to put on airs.

    You can't evict an idea whose time has come. ~Dr. Cornel West

    by mandyinseattle on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 05:05:12 PM PDT

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