With the celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare now flowering into their full majesty, I suspect there are millions of literary and theatrical philistines around the world like me who going to enjoy and benefit enormously from the surfeit of media articles, television/radio programmes and/or discussions of both his works and lasting influence upon the world.
When you’re as thick and uninterested in the creative written word as I am – and yet also perfectly willing to accept your pygmy status in all walks of human life compared to those who excel and become giants in them – it’s both easy and comforting to be able to fall prostrate upon the floor at the feet of the great god Shakespeare and his equivalents.
After all, the world is so lucky to have Shakespeare. If he hadn’t ever been born, it is almost as if would have been necessary to invent him. Think of all those playwrights and writers you could name with excessively pronounced egos – and how even more insufferable they might have been had there not been Shakespeare to keep them relatively humble and constantly trying to better themselves against his Everest of achievements (unless perhaps they behave like they do because they’ve given up trying to match the Master).
Today I suspect I’m a much better-informed and wiser individual than I was a month ago, simply because since then I have read perhaps a dozen articles or book reviews upon different aspects of Shakespeare the man and writer. These bite-size chunks of commentary may be the poor man’s route to a deeper appreciation of his output but they shouldn’t be criticised for that.
Yesterday, unusually, I spent a fascinating half hour or so buried in one of the supplements of the Mail On Sunday. It boasted a feature in which a dozen or more famous actors, playwrights, producers and directors provided lists of their favourite Shakespearian play, sonnet, character villain and so on, together with the reasons for their choices. It was the most rewarding and interesting thing I did all weekend.
Hopefully for the benefit of Rust readers who may have missed it, here is a link to the piece on the last stage of Shakespeare’s writing career by James Shapiro, Professor of English at Columbia University, New York, that appeared (possibly in The Observer and) on the website yesterday of – THE GUARDIAN