William Shakespeare, according to a telephone caller to the Nevada Appeal, should be recognized in newspaper coverage today because it marks 450 years since his birth.
He’s right, though the news is a bit stale and he acknowledged the exact date might be in question. Baptismal records show church authorities did their work three days later, so the presumption is Will came into the world April 24, 1564. Whatever the date, there is no doubt it was in April back then, or so says Brit Paul Johnson, historian, author, admirer.
“Shakespeare is the most creative personality in human history,” Johnson wrote in his book “Creators,” published in 2006. The book paid the Elizabethan dramatist and poet homage in glowing terms.
“Born in Stratford in April, 1564, he became a professional writer toward the end of the 1580s, in his early twenties, so his writing career covers barely a quarter of a century to his death, at age 52, in April, 1616,” Johnson reported.
Perhaps that means another column on Will is due in April a couple of years hence to take note of his demise some four centuries ago. We could spill ink over less important stale facts.
Johnson records what some literate folks know and every person who loves English, all language, culture and human psychology would do well to note.
“During his lifetime his plays were already being performed abroad as well as all over Britain, and even at sea off the coast of west Africa; they have since been translated into every known language and acted all over the world,” Johnson said. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but Will will do.
The 39 plays dominate his legacy, though by no means are they the end of it. His poetry endures, as do works by artists of all ilk inspired by the plays.
“They have become the basis for over 200 operas by composers great and minor,” said Johnson, “including Purcell, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner and Britten; and have inspired works by Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and scores of other masters.” Johnson said the plays spawned more than 300 movies and thousands of television adaptations and have provided material or ideas for many professional playwrights.
So thanks to that anonymous caller a few days back. He reminded me why I support things such as Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center. He reminded me why I favor at least part of the city sales-tax hike of one-eighth of one penny, the part that will go to improve Community Center staging associated with the Bob Boldrick Theater there. He reminded me why I’m a vocal culture vulture.
Shakespeare was like an upside Pandora’s Box that kept on giving. He is likely to be contributing still to our culture in 2616, when he’s been mouldering but not forgotten for a millennium.