I gather Shakespeare will be celebrating his birthday soon. Congratulations, old boy! (Really old boy…Really dead old boy.)
I confess I’m not his biggest fan. We studied his plays every year in high school English. I knew, in the very first lesson, that I was in for a long, hard road. The man wrote in English but we still needed an interpreter. Our teacher would analyse practically every… single…line. The characters talked in a weird way; a sort of hybrid between poetry and normal speech. The only times I didn’t mind Shakespeare’s work was when we saw film versions of his plays. (Taming of the Shrew , Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet were the standouts.) I always did extremely well in English (the only subject I got As in every year) but I did so by keeping my aversion to the bard a dark secret.
Now I’m older I’ve come to realise that studying Shakespeare so intensely for five years has had a lasting effect on me. His stories, his phrases, his view of the world, have sunk down into my subconscious like lemon syrup seeping into a tea cake.
I recently saw a small collection of some of the phrases Shakespeare invented. Here are a few: good riddance; seen better days; what’s done is done; vanish into thin air; with baited breath; a wild goose chase; to lie low; love is blind; off with his head; in a pickle, and knock, knock, who’s there. And, there are plenty more!
What did people say before Shakespeare invented ‘off with his head’?
‘Remove that man’s cranium’?
‘May his head and shoulders be permanently separated’?
‘Say goodbye to your feet’?
It really says something about a person’s talent, when they have contributed so many new expressions to the language. What is more, it’s been nearly 500 years and most of them are still in use! Sadly, I do think, with texting and people’s appalling lack of understanding of grammar and spelling, many of those phrases are soon to become extinct. But, hey, what a great innings! Every writer I know would give their eye-teeth (did Will think up that one, too?) to have such a lasting effect on the language, and for their works to remain popular and influential for centuries.
So, I guess I’m a fan after all. (But, I’d still rather see the movie than read the play.) Happy birthday, Will.
PS: In response to last week’s post about my regular spammers I received 67 spam comments. Hahahaaaaaa