Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

The Globe on Tour's production of Much Ado About Nothing in Margate (c. Bronwen Sharp)
The Globe on Tour’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in Margate (c. Bronwen Sharp)

Today (Wednesday 23rd April) is quite the day for literature lovers – not only is it World Book Night but also the 450th birthday of English literature’s very own bard William Shakespeare.

The day is set to be heralded with much fanfare by fans of Shakespeare, currently enjoying a great cultural revival with actors such as David Tennant, Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston all lending their performances to Shakespeare’s words in the recent months. Last summer Liverpool enjoyed its own five-star performances of one of the Bard’s greatest tragedies, King Lear, as Shakespeare’s Globe brought its touring production to the newly-opened Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House. In June we’ll be doing it all again as The Globe on Tour returns with their open-air production of Much Ado About Nothing. The production recently opened in Margate and Northumberland and if the brilliant pictures are anything to go by we’re certainly in for a treat. You can find all the information on how to buy your tickets for what promises to be five wonderful performances on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events

The excitement is building for Much Ado as Michael Billington, theatre critic at The Guardian offers a lowdown on the best performances of the play as part of the birthday celebrations. Amongst the actors who have played the warring and immensely comical would-be lovers Beatrice and Benedick in the past read like a who’s who of theatre – Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Simon Russell Beale and perhaps most famously Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh in the film production. Performances that Shakespeare himself would be proud of, and we know that The Globe’s touring cast will add to the wonderful portrayals.

The Globe on Tour's production of Much Ado About Nothing in Margate (c. Bronwen Sharp)
The Globe on Tour’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in Margate (c. Bronwen Sharp)

Here at The Reader Organisation, Shakespeare is one of our most loved authors and we use his work frequently, not only in our shared reading groups but in our courses and staff training too. Giving us much to the English language but also exploring emotions in a range of colourful ways, 450 years after his birth we’re able to identify so much of our own lives today through his words and creations. Several of his works, including Sonnet 29 (‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes’) appear in our anthologies, and you’ll often find something of Shakespeare lying around the office to give us a burst of inspiration.

This excerpt from Henry V is pinned up on the walls of TRO HQ, where we’re treating every day like St Crispian’s Day, and it’s with this that we toast Shakespeare on this very special anniversary:

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

 

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