Tribute to the Immortal Bard – William Shakespeare

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Tribute to the Immortal Bard – William Shakespeare

  • William Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary is being celebrated across the world this year.

Brahmavar-Udupi: The wide coverage on Shakespeare ignited some nostalgia in me. I was thrown back to my undergraduate days when we all held the bard of Avon with great awe and reverence. We studied Macbeth, Othello, As You Like It, Twelfth Night etc. We had a fleeting acquaintance with some of his great tragedies, his historical plays, his comedies etc. There used to be frequent reference to his plays. We learnt some of his sonnets too. I was so smitten by the poet-dramatist that I longed to possess the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It was way beyond my capacity to own one, but my obsession was growing intense by the day. I decided to save up money to buy the coveted volume.

William Shakespeare (1)

I had already sighted it in a bookstore and cast a glance on it every time I passed by the store. Finally, I gathered up the required amount and took possession of the book. It was printed on cheap paper and so it was voluminous though not heavy. I decided to split the book into segments, to make it easier to handle. Now I had to read the book, and vowed to myself that I would read it cover to cover. I did it, though some of the plays were beyond my grasp. However, I accomplished what I aimed at, to own the Complete Works of Shakespeare and to read it fully. This is my closest brush with the universal bard. The spell still remains.

A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon:

Visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare was a great dream of mine. I had two occasions to visit the place. In 1987 during my very first visit to the UK, I made it a point to visit Shakespeare’s town. When my host asked me to name the places I wanted to visit, I mentioned Stratford, Oxford, Cambridge and the Lake District. Stratford is a market town in Warwickshire, on the river Avon, and hence the name. Visiting the town was a thrilling experience. When one enters Shakespeare’s house and sees the room where he was born, one is filled with a sense of awe and disbelief. The sense of fulfillment one feels is difficult to explain.

The British authorities preserve their history and monuments with great care. It’s hard to believe how the houses of Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway are maintained with so much care, and how they are intact even after four centuries. The town attracts a large number of tourists every day, from every corner of the world. A visit to the town is like a pilgrimage to every student of literature. It was my own tryst with Shakespeare. While visiting various places in England in my subsequent visits too, I discovered fresh nuances in the plays of Shakespeare. The admiration of every literature student for Shakespeare is too intense and unfathomable. There is none like Shakespeare in the literary world.

William Shakespeare (2)Shakespeare’s House – where he was born

Shakespeare’s celebrations:

Every year, Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated in Stratford. The celebration takes place over two days on the weekend closest to April 23, the date of his birth, and includes musical performances, drama, and a parade through the town. This year many events were held in Stratford to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Describing the “The Globe Theatre”- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is well-known to the students of English literature. “The evidence suggests that it was a three-storey, open-air amphitheatre approximately 100 feet (30 m) in diameter that could house up to 3,000 spectators”. The modern versions are only seen today. I watched a play in such a theatre in Manchester. That was also an exciting experience. A live English play is in itself a delight to watch. In a globe theatre, it was an other-worldly experience.

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Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, once the home of Shakespeare’s wife’s family

Shakespeare will live as long as The English Language lives. He has contributed over 3000 words to the language, and hosts of idioms and phrases. The Bible and Shakespeare together have enriched the language like no one else. “William Shakespeare is understood far better in India than his birth country and the iconic playwright’s popularity in the emerging economies exceeds his fame in the UK”, a new survey by the YouGov poll for the British Council reported recently.

“The survey covered 18,000 people across 15 countries to mark the 400th death anniversary of the Bard this month. According to the report titled “All the World’s”, as many as 83 percent of Indians said they understood Shakespeare, compared to just 58 per cent of Britons.” It was most interesting to see how almost all major English newspapers have written an editorial on 23rd April which happens to be his birthday, as well as his date of death. Excerpts from a few such editorials are reproduced here, to give a world-view of the celebrated writer:

The Guardian (London)

Britain is a very fortunate land in at least one enduring respect. That’s because, for the last four centuries, our pre-eminent compatriot has not been a king or a general, an aristocrat or a political leader, but a poet, who lived his life in the wings of great events, not at the centre of the stage. This best of us all was not a man of action or wealth but of letters. Few statues of this national hero exist — long may that be so — but no one ever campaigned for them to fall. Or, if they did, they were simply wrong.

Instead, William Shakespeare’s monument is mostly inside us, passed down through the generations and ours to pass on in our turn

The Washington Times (USA)

If there’s one man in the history of words and books and speech who needs no defense against the slings and arrows of the envious, it’s William Shakespeare, the country lad who grew up to make English the most important language in the world, and to spin tales in it that would instruct, entertain and inspire the millions four centuries after his death.

The Deccan Herald (India)

No other writer has created a world of imagination with such width and depth, and diversity and originality, as Shakespeare did. The 400th anniversary of his birth should remind the world of that great and singular position he has among the world’s writers, past and present, not just among English writers. Many of the words and phrases he minted became the most used currency in the English language.

He had a vision of hell like Dante and Dostoevsky, glimpsed through the terror of a Lear or the horror of a Macbeth, and a vision of heaven which Kalidasa had, where the conflicts of the human condition were resolved, as conjured up in some measure by Prospero. All sentiments, emotions, and thoughts found their place there – love, hatred, honour, ambition, jealousy, forgiveness, and kindness. As with the Mahabharata, there is perhaps nothing in this world that is not in Shakespeare.

In 400 years, poetry has rarely touched his heights and drama rarely matched his art. A wonderful world, which had such a man in it!

by Mathew C Ninan-Principal, Little Rock Indian School, Brahmavar, Udupi

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1 Comment

  1. The best way to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday is to read his works. His descriptions of the setting of his plays are often more vivid than the films of the setting of his plays. One of my favorite Shakespeare passages is his description of Cleopatra floating on the Nile.

    “The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
    Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
    Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
    The winds were lovesick with them; the oars were silver,
    Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
    The water which they beat to follow faster,
    As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
    It beggar’d all description: she did lie
    In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
    O’erpicturing that Venus where we see
    The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
    Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
    With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
    To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
    And what they undid did.”

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