REMEMBERING WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616)was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 39 plays,154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
We don’t need a special day to remember William Shakespeare, but there is something special about yesterday that makes us miss him more. Some 455 years ago, the famous bard and playwright was born on this day. Given limited time and space, it is not easy to write about the soulful sonnets, colourful characters and popular plays he brought to life with his words. His words are filled with phrases that celebrate the power words yield over our life and love. On his birthday yesterday, let us re-read a few phrases from Shakespeare’s works and test our knowledge about the great 15th century literary genius.
IF YOU PRICK US, DO WE NOT BLEED?
There are perhaps very few instances of a grey character stealing the show from a hero or the protagonist and shylock is one such person. In the powerful soliloquy by the Jew in “Merchant of Venice”, he almost turned the table and moved the readers to tears when he spoke about how he has been wronged. “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? This is a classic example of societal discrimination and how it existed for hundreds of years.
MORE SINNED AGAINST THAN SINNING
These words capture the anguish and dread of a powerless father who was once the most influential person. In Act III, Scene II of the play “King Lear”, the master playwright paints a sad picture of the wronged father who was thrown out of doors by his own daughters and in deep anguish, a helpless King Lear cries out, “I am a man. More sinned against than sinning”.
COWARDS DIE MANY TIMES BEFORE THEIR DEATHS
We might have used this phrase many times without even realising that this was used by Shakespeare in the play Julius Caesar to draw a clever distinction between bravery and cowardice. The words, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once”, were spoken by Julius Caesar in Act II, Scene II of the play.
FRAILTY, THY NAME IS WOMAN!
These words were spoken by a depressed Hamlet, may not be well received by women today. But let’s not forget the many layers of human emotions that Shakespeare pumped into the play “Hamlet”. Saddened by the death of his father and hurt by the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle, Hamlet poured out his agony of his heart in his first soliloquy of which the line, “Frailty, thy name is woman” is a part of.
IT IS A TALE TOLD BY AN IDIOT
Nothing perhaps expresses the sense of meaninglessness of life more than this line by Macbeth - “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”. Did you know an American author who wrote a novel where he borrowed words from this famous line to name his work? It is William Faulkner and the book is “Sound and Fury”.
WHAT IS IN A NAME?
Love is the central theme of many of Shakespeare’s plays, “Romeo and Juliet” is perhaps the one, that most lovers can relate to. In Act II, Scene II of the same play, Juliet says, “What is in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet”- by which the heroine was trying to imply that the family name of Romeo has nothing to do with their love. Love knows no bounds and no one knew it better than Shakespeare, right?
ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE
Most of us, at some point in our lives, might have compared the world to a stage and wondered if we are just mere players. But did you know that it was Shakespeare who had used this in one of his plays? The line, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely player” was spoken by the melancholic Jacques in Act II, Scene II of the pastoral comedy “As You Like It”.
These are some phrases chosen to just put them together, to create this fond small write-up, to remember him, to cherish all his plays, even to this day. For all those who love English language would definitely have started their learning journey from his plays and other creations.
VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, ADVOCATE & SOCIAL ACTIVIST.