How Shakespeare made a writer of me

Brought up as an only child in a house full of books that I was given free rein to investigate, the books that I always found myself drawn to were theatre scripts, and most specifically two collections of Shakespeare's plays.

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?

Links:

Shakespeare's England - Shakespeare 2016
Telegraph article - Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary: When is it and how is it being celebrated?
Shakespeare 400
Shakespeare Celebrations in Stratford upon Avon
Fun quiz

Comments

  1. Yes, I did, in my own American, albeit English major, way--ranting about how the BBC special was not available here (Judy Dench, Ian McKellan, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant: wow!) and flooding Facebook with Shakespeare facts, particularly clever Shakespearean insults. Then I went to the neighborhood pub, drank a few Boddingtons, and watched a PBS documentary on his grave, which I was fortunate enough to visit in 2010. I'm an only child as well, by the way. *high-fives*

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    Replies
    1. Yay for only children and brilliant that you found your own way to celebrate. The BBC special was excellent and I'm sure it'll be available to the US soon in some form or other. I especially liked the Bottom and Titania scene - made me chuckle.

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