Wisdom from the Bard

It is believed that on this day in 1564 William Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire. I say believed as there are records confirming the date of his baptism (26th April 1564) but not of his actual birth. It is though known that it was on this day, 23rd April 1616 Shakespeare passed away at the age of 52. As someone who was born and raised in Warwickshire herself (albeit quite a few years later!) – Shakespeare is someone who has had great influence on my life – not least during the two years I spent studying drama in his home town.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Stratford upon Avon. Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Quite early on when I was studying drama I can remember a class with one of our drama teachers, Gordon Vallins. He was adamant that everyone could quote from Shakespeare – and that of a group of 20 something drama students, we’d all come up with different quotes. We stood in a circle and took it in turns – as fate would have it I was near the end of having my turn hoping no one else would say what I was hoping to (if you’re interested I opted for Act 5, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Nights Dream … If we shadows have offended … think but this and all is mended …). That day I realised just how many lines from Shakespeare I did know – and how many more have come to light since.

There is so much wisdom to be found in the complete works. Some of my favourites include:

  • Better a witty fool than a foolish wit – Twelfth Night
  • The empty vessel makes the loudest sound – Henry V
  • The course of true love never did run smooth – Romeo & Juliet
  • Though she be but little she is fierce – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none – All’s Well That Ends Well
  • We are such stuff as dreams are made on – The Tempest
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once – Julius Caesar
  • Pleasure and action make the hours seem short – Othello
  • With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come – The Merchant of Venice
  • This above all – to thine own self be true – Hamlet

It is amazing how some lines from plays written over 400 years ago still resonate with us. You could argue that it’s an admirable achievement – and funnily enough we have Shakespeare to thank for the word admirable. It’s one of the many words that he added into the English language – others include sanctimonious, dwindle, belongings, ode and dawn.

My copy of the Complete Works – published in 1845

So … on this day, 23rd April, I encourage you to raise a glass to toast the Bard.

Invitation: In Troilus and Cressida there’s the line One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. I invite you to connect with a being from the more than human world. Perhaps you’ll find your kin?

If you feel moved to take this invitation, I invite you to share what you are noticing below.

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