Let's All Love Our Willy (Shakespeare!)
Updated: Apr 23
We revisit Ben Humphrey's article on why everyone should be marking Shakespeare's Birthday and celebrating one of the world's greatest dramatists.
About this time 452 years ago a bright little chap called William was born. Since then he has provided me and many of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, enemies, partners, and pets with a constant stream of work, entertainment, and discussion. He has been a constant pain in the backside of English students of all ages as well as a source of beauty and fun for those of us who know what he's on about. Over the past four and a bit centuries he has been 'outed', accused of plagiarism, drug use, adultery, espionage, and even murder. We've seen him portrayed as a sex symbol, a pervert, a womaniser, and a master criminal. He remains one of the most famous people ever to have been born.
So today let us just give thanks;
Say what you like about some of his stuff, but when he wants to, he writes superb parts for both men and women and has kept a lot of us in work. And now that gender has nothing to do with the casting of major roles such as Lear, Richard III and Hamlet we're all able to join in the fun! Hurrah!
We all know that great theatre starts with a great play. He gave us some corkers that have made you look fabulous.
Don't complain about doing Shakespeare...ever! Whack David Tennant or Maxine Peake in a show and watch it sell out! You don't even have to pay royalties on the Box Office.
just imagine what fun he would have had if he'd got you lot flying set, creating UV sequences, costumes made of tin cans, hydraulic lifts, spotlights, and all the other wonderful things you guys do... It's a shame he never met you. He'd have thought you were awesome.
Some productions will bore you to tears. Some will make you cry with laughter. Some will touch you more than you ever thought possible. But I will guarantee you this... In 400 years time no-one, I repeat, NO-ONE, will be watching re-runs of Britain's Got Talent or the X-Factor.
Stick with it. I know it can be tedious from time to time and sometimes you think "what the hell is this guy on about?". If you want the honest truth, sometimes he didn't even know himself (see the above note about the drugs). The plays he wrote were meant to be performed, not read. Go and see some cracking theatre.
Make sure your students have fun with Shakespeare. It is possible. Tell them about all the dirty bits. They'll love it. For example, 'Wit' is slang for penis! It puts an entirely different slant on phrases such as "How likest his wit, my Lord?" "I think he has a pretty wit." Utter filth!
Chill out - Shakespeare was renowned for mucking about with his work and putting in completely inappropriate dances, jokes, and innuendo. For God's sake, the guy put the world's first 'Knock Knock' joke in the middle of Macbeth. #lad
9. People who don't believe he wrote any of it
You may well be right. But Shakespeare is bigger than his works. He is an institution. Just enjoy the party.
10. People who vehemently believe that he wrote all of his own stuff.
See point 9.
Regardless of what you think about the big 'W' he was, is, and always will be a massive influence on our culture and our lives. I will be raising a glass to baldy-beardy bloke this evening. William Shakespeare, you sir, are a what the 21st Century kids call, a legend.
Blog posts, interviews and commentary by individuals do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Worcester Repertory Company.
Ben Humphrey is an Associate Director of the Worcester Repertory Company, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Associate Research Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Worcester and Patron of the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has recently directed the inaugural production for the Young Rep, Macbeth. He will be appearing in Hound of the Baskervilles at The Commandery this Summer.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHumphreyUK