Age Cannot Wither Him.
One of the many reasons that an Englishman wakes up feeling a little smug is that he not only shares a language but a nationality with William Shakespeare. And at present London has many “fair thoughts and happy hours” as the city shows itself “sick with joy” for the 400th celebrations of the bard’s death.
We will soon travelling down the river with our “band of brothers” to the Globe. This year I have read James Shapiro’s 1599 and his 1606 sits beckoning on my shelf. This author does not try and fill the many gaps in Will’s life but brilliantly shows how the events and ideas of those momentous and productive years are the very warp and weave of the plays. Later I will hear Shapiro talk at the Hay Festival. Into Will’s “infinite book of secrecy a little he can read”
Last month I went to the South Bank to see the excerpts of the 37 plays on the big screens. Unfortunately it was the Saturday Obama visited the Globe and the electrics were under the security blanket with the effect that all the South Bank was not a stage and its technicians reduced to “very strange beasts, which in all tongues are called fools.”Those uniformed and paid to help the audience suffered from “dull, unfeeling, barren ignorance.”
But all was made “ well that ended well” this week by going to the British Library to see Shakespeare in Ten Acts. Here “the good housewife Fortune had bestowed many gifts.” Its a must see. Many, many highlights. Eight actors doing To be or not, and our Larry over acted them all. Just how many seconds can you hold between be…or. Larry shows how many. Here there is “a surfeit of the sweetest things” and here “ no amount of eager eating doth choke the feeder.”
So much for both scholar and fan. I will never forget Peter Sellers doing Olivier’s Richard III reciting the Beatles Hard Days Night. Indeed. “Great men may jest with saints” (see link)
My 400th celebrations were further enhanced by buying for £4 at a bric a brac stall a Flowers Best Bitter ash tray featuring the bard. Before they were taken over by Whitbread, Flowers was brewed in Stratford upon Avon and were generous benefactors of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in his home town. Drinking Flowers was a double virtue. It still is.
Cassius asks after Caesar’s murder “How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over.” In Will’s case its been 400 years and we have given up counting.