Never has the world seen such a talent as William Shakespeare; the Bard’s legacy is still keenly felt around the world, with his influence upon the English language showing little sign of relenting.
Described as the “soul of the age” by contemporary Ben Jonson in the 1623 publication, First Folio, Shakespeare was firmly placed in a metropolitan context as the “wonder of [our] stage”. His impact on society was not for an age but for all time, so this week, on the 400th anniversary of his death, we see it very apt to celebrate this revered figure in British culture.
Four hundred years on, Shakespeare’s unique gift to our culture, language and imagination has been to universalise the experience of living and writing in late 16th century England and to have become widely recognised, and loved, across the world as the greatest playwright. His plots are brilliantly polyvalent and continue to inspire countless adaptations and spin-offs, most notably West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew) and even The Lion King (Hamlet).
Every generation continues to be in his debt; his unforgettable phrasemaking falls on the lips of millions who do not realise they are quoting Shakespeare: “wear your heart on your sleeve”; “send him packing”; “dead as a doornail”; “a wild good chase”; “cruel, only to be kind” and many more. And yet despite having forever changed English life, language and culture, at home and further afield, Shakespeare remains an enigma. His work is a mirror on which we can reflect themes of love and hate, war and peace, freedom and tyranny, but the man himself is mysterious. After 400 years, such magical invisibility makes him more than ever godlike.
Across Britain the country will be celebrating the Bard, most notably on his death date, Saturday 23rd April, with touring productions of Henry V in cathedrals the country over, celebratory concerts and historical talks in London. Shakespeare400 is a dedicated organisation devoted to promoting a season of cultural and artistic events across 2016, celebrating Shakespeare’s creative achievements and his profound influence on creative culture across the centuries.
Highlights include: An Anniversary Gala Concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 23rd April, open air performances of Henry V in Regent’s Park from June to July and 1616; a collection of events at Shakespeare’s Globe throughout the year. Of course, you could also make a pilgrimage to Stratford upon Avon to truly experience the authenticity of Shakespeare’s homeland whilst viewing multiple events in and around the county of Warwickshire.