Hey, today is the anniversary of his birthday — his death day, too. Yep! Will Shakespeare, April 23, 1564 — April 23, 1616.
Of course, I’m being a little flippant, but so was Will. However, I will neither budge an inch nor play fast and loose with the remembrance of things past of this tower of strength, not on the graves of any of my flesh and blood. It would be cold comfort to me and beggar all description to you if I simply referred to Will as a playwright.
Why? Well, he was much more than that, and his 37 plays and 154 sonnets of which we know were only outlets for the other talents he possessed: actor, psychologist, historian, linguist, and others that could be culled from his work. He didn’t have degrees, yet all of the training for these current degree fields refer extensively to Will Shakespeare.
His linguistic ability still amazes me, as well as I know it. The phrases in italics in the second paragraph above are all his creations. How many such words and phrases did Shakespeare produce? That would be somewhere around 1,800 — a number no one else even comes close to in the history of the language.
When I was a classroom teacher and beginning a unit about Will Shakespeare, I would start by asking my class to write a poem in iambic pentameter metrical pattern. I would tell them they needed to invent a word that was unknown to the rest of us and that the meaning should be so clear, we would understand what it meant from the context. Then, I would ask them to make sure it was so good that it would be in common usage in five years, ten years, four hundred years.
“Like what words?” they would ask.
“Well, when we talk about the brightness of the sun, we refer to its…”
“Radiance,” someone would shout out. “You mean he made up radiance?”
“Yes, and words like obscene, frugal, countless, hurry, excellent, lonely, hint, gust…”
“What about phrases? What do you mean?”
“Did you ever hear about a relative being your ‘flesh and blood’? Or can you picture something in your ‘mind’s eye’? Has something disappeared quickly and you say that it ‘vanished into thin air’? Or that someone is so stubborn that they won’t ‘budge an inch’?” (Thanks to Bill Bryson’s book The Mother Tongue: English & How It Got That Way.)
Language and communication techniques change every day. Shakespeare helped accelerate change. However, his type of change is based on careful observation and critical thinking. And when he made changes to the language and added his creativity to our human experience, the rapidity of it did not matter.
Today, change is equated many times with speed, and shortcuts are desired, “life hacks,” and many folks don’t want to have to think about what they hear, see, or read. They want it so clear that they don’t have to evaluate, analyze, connect, synthesize, or any other critical thought process — just be fast, direct, and don’t make anyone guess.
That wasn’t Will. Scholars still debate his meanings and intents 400 years later.
I suppose on this day I would hope you do a few things. Nope, you decide!
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!