Happy Death Day to Will

Because we’re reasonably sure about the death day. But the birthday is near enough to serve, too, what are we here, pedants?

So what did you do to celebrate Shakespeare’s anniversary of one kind or another? I got up at 4am to live stream the Cheek by Jowl production of Measure for Measure, so I’ve earned my mead this evening. When I first started writing about that play I was a rebel crying out for change by insisting that what was happening to Isabella was not seduction she was too repressed to accept, but sexual abuse. It’s strange to see these days how I can retire on that point, because the field is effectively won.

I have a friend who celebrated the day by making the entire primary school where he works come dressed as Shakespeare’s characters. More power to his sword arm.

Statue of Falstaff leaning on a stone plinth, skyscrapers in background.

Falstaff on Macquarie Street

I confess to the beginnings of a hopefulness about the way people engage with Shakespeare at this moment in history. There seem to be fewer ridiculous statues (pace Henry Gullett, your chap looks just lovely in the picture above), and more events based around actually watching and doing the plays, speaking the words, talking about the questions that they evoke. There were a lot of people tweeting excitedly about the Cheek by Jowl event. They were showing up to watch a play, not buy a tea-towel. And the primary students are trying out scenes from Macbeth, in the original language. Digital technology, social media and vastly improved and accessible archives are all facilitating a widespread joy in the texts themselves, and their infinite and changing relationships with who we are now. I’m sure the sales of mugs with pictures of Hamlet on are still healthy as ever, but the opportunity to dig deeper has never been more present, or been celebrated in so many different ways.

Watch this space as plans develop for this time next year, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Suggestions for how to stage an appropriately splendiferous shindig will be welcomed.

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