450 years since the birth of the Bard (and 398 years since his death)

Shakespeare is traditionally said to have been born and died on the same date: 23rd April. Tomorrow is the 450th anniversary (approximately) of his birth.

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This is my copy of the complete works. I am ashamed to say that it’s not as well thumbed as it should be. It’s not really practical for everyday reading so I prefer my tablet, and, before I got that, books of the individual plays. I could scribble in the margins of those as well.

I’ve been trying to remember which plays I’ve read, seen at a theatre or as film/television adaptations. I know I studied Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night and The Tempest while at school and college. I’ve seen Twelfth Night and Coriolanus at theatres (I don’t get out much – there was 15 years between me seeing those plays), and I’ve seen a variety of tv/film adaptations.

I particularly liked the BBC’s ‘Shakespeare Retold’ version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and the Hollow Crown films. I’ve also got a version of ‘Titus Andronicus’ starring Antony Hopkins. It’s a deeply disturbing film but I rather enjoy it. My Amazon wishlist has a short list of other Shakespeare DVD’s – David Tennent’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Richard II’, and Joss Whedon’s recent film version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. I saw Hamlet when the BBC screened it a few years ago on Boxing Day and have been trying to get hold of it since. It blew my tiny mind.

I love listening to the words. There’s something soothing about the sound, the flow of poetically written phrases, of Shakespeare’s work. His plays admit no distraction either. Once invested in watching/hearing a play the world could end and I wouldn’t notice until the play was over. This is most effective when I see a play live or a recording, but is less obvious when I see a film.

Shakespeare’s language is, for me personally, his greatest draw. It’s completely poetic, complex and nails emotional states perfectly.

On my ‘To do before I die’ list is to go to Stratford-upon-Avon and be a terrible tourist for a few days, and also to see at least two of Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe.
Going to London with Ellie and Aimee for a weekend has become a bit of a tradition. Last year we saw a recording of ‘The Recruiting Officer’ at the V&A, which isn’t Shakespeare, but this year we went to the Donmar to see ‘Coriolanus’ and for next year’s trip I’d love to see Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Hamlet’ at The Barbican.

I think tomorrow may be a day of watching Shakespeare DVDs and writing.

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