Much Ado About Shakespeare

April 23, 2021 – Adrianna Holt, Adult Services

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” – Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 5

That sort of sounds like Uncle Ben’s famous quote “With great power comes great responsibility.”

William Shakespeare lived over 400 years ago and his life and literature have been inspected, analyzed, and dragged through by fine-tooth combs. However, his work is still taught in schools, people are still able to catch references of his work in multitudes of other media, and his plays are still performed. Somehow, one man was able to define culture with his work hundreds of years after his death. Let me tell you a little about this man, to pique your interest. 

William Shakespeare was born in 1564. Scholars figure that since most children at that time were baptized three days after their birth, then it would mean he was born on April 23rd, since records show he was baptized into the Catholic Church on April 26th. His hometown was Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. We are Americans, so let me give you a focal point, Big Ben is 103.8 miles northeast from Shakespeare’s home town (by car – something they didn’t have then). His parents John, a glove-maker, and Mary, a farmer’s daughter, had a total of 8 children, including William. Unfortunately, in the late sixteenth century it was still quite common that children would not live to see adulthood or reproduce. Shakespeare attended the Grammar School of King Edward VI at Stratford-upon-Avon and that was the extent of his education. When he was 18, he married an already pregnant woman that was 8 years his senior, Miss Anne Hathaway (obviously not the actress). They had 3 children together, Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith. His only son died unexpectedly at the age of 11, and the 4 grandchildren that he did have from his daughters either died or didn’t have children. The point is that his direct lineage stopped there. Obviously, he’s still alive and kicking today… No, he died on his 52nd birthday. Yet his words have lived so much since then. His works include at least 37 plays, 5 long narrative poems, and 154 sonnets! Here are some more cool facts about Shakespeare and his work!

• Did you know? That both Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing have been translated into Klingon! And the Klingon Language Institute plans to translate more of his plays! 

• Did you know that most of the moons of Uranus that were originally named in 1852 were named after magical spirits from English literature? Names such as Cordelia, Desdemona, Ophelia, and Puck. It has been decided by The International Astronomy Union any further moons found on Uranus are to be named after characters in Shakespeare’s plays.

Did you know that Shakespeare made sure that nobody dared to mess with his grave after he was buried? He actually composed on a curse that was put on his gravestone:
Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

This is a rough draft for what I want on my gravestone:
If there sits a cat upon this grave
Then thou be warned you horrid knave
These bones be protected by words
If you dare disturb, you’ll be attacked by birds.

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading some of Shakespeare’s works, this website provides most of his plays that are available to read online or download for free!

Here are some books in our collection if you’d like to know more about Shakespeare’s Life: 

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
Shakespeare: A Life by Park Honan
Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

If you’d rather watch a movie adaption of his plays, here is some of what is in our collection:

King Lear 
Love’s Labour’s Lost
The Merchant of Venice
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Romeo + Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
Ten Things I Hate About You
Twelfth Night

“. . . A savage clamour! Well may I get aboard! This is the chase: I am gone forever. [Exit, pursued by a bear.]” – The Winter’s Tale

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