How Shakespeare made a writer of me
The one with the green cover in the photo belonged to my mum. The other collection, a children's version of Shakespeare's plays with certain sections summarised rather than printed in full, was my father's. I spent many an hour as a child and teenager, thumbing through these books, visualising them on stage, playing the parts in my mind and yes, reciting the speeches in my bedroom - quietly.
At high school, I was keen to learn more about the plays but equally disappointed when my enthusiasm wasn't shared by many of my friends, and horrified when certain teachers presented the plays in a way that not only bored their class but turned many people off Shakespeare for life.
The works of Shakespeare are treated as part of the British, if not worldwide, literary canon but what inspired me about him more than anything else was that he was writing for the people. He wrote to get laughs, to excite, to shock and ultimately, to keep his audience coming to the theatre, bums on seats and feet in the yard (where there was only standing room). His plays taught me about characterisation through dialogue, stage directions, comedy, forming a link with the audience, the importance of interpretation and the clever use of research.
Today, 23rd April 2016, marks the 400th anniversary of his death. It will be celebrated throughout the UK (and probably around the world) in all kinds of ways. I daresay the shops will take advantage and stock a multitude of Shakespeare related paraphenalia. There'll be theatre productions, cinema showings and all kind of events. My family aren't as enthusiastic on the topic as I am so I think I may have to shoo them out of the lounge this weekend to watch a touch of Beatrice and Benedick banter, or Puck mischief on my own. Will you be celebrating?
Shakespeare's England - Shakespeare 2016
Telegraph article - Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary: When is it and how is it being celebrated?
Shakespeare Celebrations in Stratford upon Avon