We may be commemorating 404 years since the death of Shakespeare, the greatest English writer of all time, but it’s not all sad. In fact, some might even say all’s well that ends well. For a man who wrote so many plays concerning legacy, Shakespeare still hasn’t breathed his last. #ShakespeareLives in fact.
You might say in this, our brave new world, and to give the devil his due, that William Shakespeare ensured his legacy forever, not just because we still watch and re-watch the plays and stories he wrote, but because the short and the long of it is that he had the greatest impact on our spoken and written language of any writer. This was possible not just because of his productivity (37 plays and 154 sonnets are credited to him alone), but also because the landscape of the English language was shifting and still being formed at the time. Shakespeare was a master at amalgamating the languages he knew to create new words. Who knew he was so fashionable? Bard, you trendsetter you.
Even if you sat through English lessons at school wishing in your mind’s eye that you were somewhere else, you’ve unwittingly been quoting Shakespeare for your whole life. Mumford and Sons take their name from ‘Much Ado about Nothing’, ‘Sigh No More’ refers to much of the dialogue between the protagonists, Benedict and Beatrice. The Beatles, The Smiths, Dire Straights… pretty much any name you can think of has written, painted and sung tributes to the master – and why not?
Shakespeare was, after all, a chronicler of human emotion like no one else. His plays encompass the whole gamut of human experience and serve as wonderful insights into a time long past. Love, which as we now know, is blind! Loss, madness, hatred, jealousy, comedy, he even taught us how to feel. The word ‘gloomy’ first appeared in ‘Titus Andronicus’ and is now a common adjective to describe those blue days we all know and hate. More commonly known as Mondays. How would we have described the feeling before he put pen to paper? We dread to think.
If we could sit down with William Shakespeare for our 24 questions interviews, we’d expect that he might not know a great deal about social media. But for the master of iambic pentameter and 14-line sonnets, creator of some of the greatest stories ever told, we’re sure composing 280 characters wouldn’t be too difficult.
Just leaves us to say, Bard, within this wall of flesh, there is a soul that counts thee its creditor*
*Shakespearean for ‘thank you’, obvs.