Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Today we celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. It’s a breathtaking number, not just because it’s big, or because his work has survived for so long — we have older works of literature — but because of the unique combination of the longevity of his writings, the broad impact that work has continually had on “pop culture” throughout those 450 years, and how lively, thought provoking, and accessible his plays are even today in the 21st century. Will had a brilliant facility with language and story and a keen eye for human nature. Human interactions — and the kinds of stories we love — has not changed so very much in the intervening centuries. His plays are continually being adapted to modern times. Bits and pieces of them permeate Western civilization so thoroughly that we scarcely take notice of it any more.
I fancy Shakespeare would’ve been astonished at the idea that all those pot-boilers he was turning out would be taught to every school kid in the English speaking world (as well as translated into every known language) in the 21st century. Fictional futuristic aliens even embrace his work as their own. (And a Klingon embrace is not something to take lightly.)
I have all his plays (and a few dubiously attributed to him) as ebooks. Thanks to smartphone apps I have all his words in my pocket or purse all the time. Just stop a moment and allow that to boggle your mind: from a playhouse in London in Elizabethan England (which was sometimes closed due to plague outbreaks) to the pocket of my jeans in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the US, in the 21st century. Who says time travel isn’t possible? Will and I, we do it all the time.
Happy (450th) Birthday, Will!