About this time 459 years ago a bright little chap called William was born. Since then he has provided me and many of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, enemies, partners, and pets with a constant stream of work, entertainment, and discussion. He has been a pain in the backside of English students of all ages as well as a source of beauty and fun for those of us who know what he's on about. Over the past four-and-a-bit centuries he has been outed, accused of plagiarism, drug use, adultery, espionage, and even murder. We've seen him portrayed as a sex symbol, a pervert, a womaniser, and a master criminal. He remains one of the most famous people ever to have been born. Long after the influencers of the day have faded into obscurity, their ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘views’ and ‘verified statuses’ are rotting on the digital scrap heap, Shakespeare will be influencing millions across the globe with nary a social media account to his name…well not a verified one.
So today let us give thanks;
Say what you like about some of his stuff, but when he wanted to, he wrote superb parts for both men and women and has kept a lot of us in work. And now that gender has nothing to do with the casting we're all able to join in the fun! Hurrah!
We all know that great theatre starts with a great play. He gave us some corkers that have made us look fabulous and turned mediocre ideas into groundbreaking smash-hits.
Don't complain about doing Shakespeare...ever! Whack David Tennant or Maxine Peake in a show and watch it sell out! You don't even have to pay royalties on the Box Office. Sex might sell, but Shakespeare sells better.
Just imagine what fun he would have had if he'd got you lot, flying set, creating UV sequences, costumes made of tin cans, hydraulic lifts, spotlights, and all the other wonderful things you guys do... It's a shame he never met you. He'd have thought you were awesome.
Some productions will bore you to tears. Some will make you cry with laughter. Some will touch you more than you ever thought possible. But I will guarantee you this... In 459 years' time no-one, I repeat, NO-ONE, will be watching re-runs of Britain's Got Talent, The X-Factor or Love Island.
Stick with it. I know it can be tedious from time to time and sometimes you think "what the hell is this guy on about?". If you want the truth, sometimes he didn't even know himself (see the above note about the drugs). He wrote plays to be performed, not read. Go and see some cracking theatre. That’s not to say that studying them can’t be incredibly rewarding but seeing them is, quite literally, poetry in motion.
Make sure your students have fun with Shakespeare. It is possible. Tell them about all the dirty bits, the violence and the political intrigue. They'll love it.
Chill out - Shakespeare was renowned for mucking about with his work and putting in completely inappropriate dances, jokes, and innuendo. For God's sake, the guy put the world's first 'Knock Knock' joke in the middle of Macbeth. Part of Shakespeare’s brilliance is that it is open to countless interpretations and you can find something new in each retelling.
9. People who don't believe he wrote any of it.
You might be right. But Shakespeare is bigger than his works. Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the party.
10. People who vehemently believe that he wrote all of his own stuff.
See point 9.
Regardless of what you think about him or his works he was, is, and always will be a massive influence on our culture and our lives. I will be raising a glass to the baldy-beardy bloke this evening.
William Shakespeare, we thank you for all you’ve given to the world.