My Theatre

24 April 2010

Shakespeare is more amazing than you give him credit for

By // Theatre

Much Ado About a Midsummer Night’s King Macbeth IV Part 2
or

Remembering William Shakespeare

On this most auspicious of days, April 23- Shakespeare’s birthday, I thought that I might take a moment or two to remember one of the greatest men who ever lived.
Shakespeare was, both in my opinion and in the opinion of most of the intelligent people in the world, the most brilliant writer who ever put pen to paper. As a theater buff, actor, and director, I find it almost impossible to find any writer that even comes close to measuring up to the immortal Bard. So, that being said, let’s get on to the actual point of this rant—giving you REASONS that Shakespeare is, in fact, better than you will EVER be.
1. Shakespeare invented words. Lots of them.
You know the term “eyeballs”? Yeah, Shakespeare invented that expression. The verb “to ensnare”? Strait out of Othello. The word “fashionable”? Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s right. Shakespeare either invented or was the first to write down more words than any other author in the history of the English language. By some accounts, he invented more than 1,700 words and phrases. Yeah, this one old English guy made up more words than most high school students are even capable of putting down in an essay (and that’s including repeating “a” as many times as they possibly can).
2. Shakespeare died at the rich old age of 52.
Shakespeare was recorded to have died at the age of 52 (on his birthday, by the way). Generally, it’s accepted that Shakespeare’s theatrical career began sometime in the 1580s, and that it ended around 1613. So he was writing for (quick math here)…about 30 years, give or take. In the course of about 30 years, he churned out 38 plays. For those of us who AREN’T mathematically impaired, that’s more than a play a year, and almost all of them are masterpieces (Comedy of Errors excepted). In the amount of time that it takes some people to pay off their college debt, Shakespeare wrote some of the greatest works ever written.
3. If it’s been done, Shakespeare did it first.
If anything has ever been done by anyone, Shakespeare’s already done it. I DARE you to think of one thing that’s been done by anyone ever that Shakespeare didn’t in some way write about first. For example, let’s pick one of the most (pathetically) modern things I can think of: the “your mom” joke. Surely that’s a modern thing that Shakespeare had never even…oh wait, Titus Andronicus. And I quote:
Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?
Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.
Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.
Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.”
Yeah, that’s right. Shakespeare was making jokes about your mother’s promiscuity before your great great great grandparents were born.
4. Shakespeare died in 1616
1616! As in the early 17th century. As in 394 years ago. So nearly 400 years after his death, we’re STILL talking about just how awesome Shakespeare was. You know what people are going to probably say about me 400 years after my death? I imagine it going something like this:
Person 1: So, have you heard of this Jim guy?
Person 2: No, who’s that?
Person 1: No idea. [long pause] What were we talking about again?
Person 3: Hey guys, want to take a day trip to Mars?”
Yeah. No one’ll be talking about how awesome I am 400 years from now, and yet here we are continuing to say how much of a genius Shakespeare was. I mean, the fact that we know his name 400 years later is pretty awesome, considering that there were kind of a lot of people in London in the early 1600s.
5. Dick Jokes.
Jokes about guys named Richard (ala Richard III) and jokes about the male anatomy. And female anatomy. And all things dirty, raunchy, and otherwise inappropriate for discussion in front of your grandmother (in case you couldn’t tell, I like making fun of your ancestors).
Anyway, Shakespeare wrote more dick jokes than possibly any other famous dead white guy. In fact, the entire plot of one of his most well known works, Romeo & Juliet can be boiled down to a series of off-colour jokes about how the two main characters just really want to do each other. Hell, even the priests get in on the fun– Friar Laurence and Romeo have a great conversation about how the good Friar suspects he spent the night with Rosaline rather than sleeping.
So, let’s go ahead and consider that for a minute. Shakespeare is great. Greater than anyone else who has ever written, and pretty much anyone who will ever write. So, on this most auspicious of days, let us raise our glasses to the immortal bard, and remember him for the incredible plays that continue to be popular even 400 years after his death.

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