William Shakespeare is not just a name on a GCSE exam paper. He is a worldwide phenomenon and probably the most important writer in English literary history. He even has his own day, called Shakespeare Day, on the 23rd April each year.
Not only is the 23rd April Shakespeare’s birthday, but it is also the United Nations’ day of celebrating the achievements of the English language. This is no coincidence – who could have achieved more than 37 plays and 154 sonnets that have been translated into 80 languages (including Klingon) and are still being read 400 years later?
Here are some ways to celebrate the Bard’s birthday:
Immerse yourself in a Shakespearean adaptation
The language may seem alien and the plot incredibly long, but Shakespeare’s plays don’t have to be a chore. There are plenty of modern film adaptations that may be more enjoyable than the original text. Some examples are:
- Romeo + Juliet
- Gnomeo & Juliet
- She’s The Man
- 10 Things I Hate About You
- West Side Story
- The Lion King
Investigate the mystery of Shakespeare’s identity
Shakespeare may be one of the most famous writers in English history. Yet, we know barely anything about his life, which has led to the following theories about who actually wrote his works:
- Other contemporary playwrights, such as Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe = Shakespeare has a 29,000 word-strong vocabulary, yet he was born in a tiny village where two thirds of the population, including his parents, were illiterate.
- Aristocrats, such as Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere = Shakespeare’s plays contain such detailed information about the Elizabethan courts and politics.
- A group of people = For one person, writing 200 pieces of literature in 23 years seems pretty difficult.
- A woman = For the Elizabethan era, where women were effectively second-class citizens, some of Shakespeare’s most powerful, famous, and much-loved characters are women. These range from King Lear’s Cordelia, Anthony and Cleopatra’s Cleopatra, Macbeth’s Lady Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet, and Twelfth Night’s Viola.
Discover Shakespeare’s famous words and phrases
Shakespeare didn’t just write enduring literature. He also invented words and phrase we still use today. Here are some examples that you may use in your day to day life:
- Break the ice (Taming of the Shrew)
- The be-all and end-all (Macbeth)
- Breathed his last (Henry VI Part 3)
- Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure/Taming of the Shrew)
- Dead as a doornail (Henry VI Part 2)
- Good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
- Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
- Melted into thin air (The Tempest)
Read his plays and discover some of your own.
Shakespeare’s most famous insults!
Believe it or not, Shakespearean plays can be funny and are know for their collection of colourful insults. Try out some of these for Shakespeare Day.
- Away, you three-inch fool! (The Taming of the Shrew)
- Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon. (Timon of Athens)
- Thou art a boil. (King Lear)
- Thou art as loathsome as a toad. (Troilus and Cressida)
- Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes. (Richard III)
- I do desire that we may be better strangers. (As You Like It)
- She is spherical, like a globe, I could find out countries in her. (The Comedy of Errors)
- More of your conversation would infect my brain. (Coriolanus)
Maybe this will make English Literature revision more enjoyable.
Written by Florianne H.