“Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.” – (Hamlet, William Shakespeare)
April 23rd is generally remarked to be the birthday of William Shakespeare but honestly, historians aren’t even sure about that. Historians chose April 23rd because, at the time, newborns were generally baptized three days after birth, but there’s no historical evidence to suggest that this was true for William Shakespeare, if that was even his real name. He was baptized on April 26, 1564 and that’s all we know about his birth which adds to the mystery of the great English playwright; the man responsible for classics that have withstood the test of time such as Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Twelfth Night etc. The man responsible for popularizing what would later be known as the Shakespearean sonnet. IF you’ve ever taken a British Literature class, you’ve heard these before. And because of this, as well as his influence on the English language and pop culture today, we still celebrate the day of his death on the same day as his supposed birthday 400 years later.
His influence on the world cannot be understated. About half of the world’s children in schools are currently learning about Shakespeare in some form or another (this time 13 years ago, I was studying Twelfth Night and Macbeth in Nigeria). Hamlet has been translated by linguists into more than 75 different languages INCLUDING the fictional Star Trek language, Klingon (people have way too much time on their hands). You may not even have realized that some of your favorite movies and TV shows bare similarities to his works: shows like Empire (King Lear), Breaking Bad (Macbeth), House of Cards (Richard III), and movies like The Lion King (Hamlet), She’s The Man (Twelfth Knight), 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew). His reach is worldwide and transcends through time as we can see 400 years after his recorded death. It is impossible to imagine a world in which William Shakespeare did not exist.
Which then makes it ironic that a man this great, whose art could rise above the overwhelming tides of the passage of time, is such a mystery. There are two periods of lost time (1578-1582 and 1585-1592) during Shakespeare’s life where historians and researchers are unsure of what happened. There are some who are still unsure of his true identity. Those who wonder if he really wrote the plays and sonnets. I feel that the mystery only adds to the intrigue and shouldn’t stop me or anyone else from enjoying what was left for us by such a talented wordsmith.
Rest in peace, William Shakespeare.