William Shakespeare…..The greatest writer in the English language. Bar none. No other held in similar esteem.
He was poet, playwright and actor. His accomplishments consisted of 36 plays, 154 sonnets, 2 long version poems, and several verses not fitting into any type description.
I decided to write about Shakespeare because the 400th anniversary of his death is in a few days. April 23 to be exact. The year 1616.
It would be impossible to write a column outlining his many accomplishments. His works and life full and complex. I decided to limit myself to those things few might know about the great man. Ergo, INCIDENTALS in the title.
Confusion exists as to Shakespeare’s actual dates of birth and death. Most agree he died on April 23, 1616. They also agree that he was born on April 23, except in the year 1564.
At the time of Shakespeare’s death, no one compilation existed of all or a substantial amount of his work. Short compilations which did exist were incorrect, maimed, deformed, fraudulent, stolen, and/or in draft form only.
Around the time of Shakespeare’s death, two friends took it upon themselves to compile Shakespeare’s works. The friends were fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell. They were familiar with Shakespeare’s writings and knew the greatness of them. They feared if not published into one volume, the works would be lost for all time.
The sonnets and poems are all in the compilation. The thirty six plays are eight short. Shakespeare’s total number of plays was forty four. Interestingly, the existence of the eight plays was discovered after the compilation’s publication. They have followed Shakespeare’s popularity over the centuries and also are well known today.
The compilation totaled 630 pages.
It is referred to as First Folio. The actual title was Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.
First Folio is considered the only reliable text for Shakespeare’s writings. Of the 36 plays printed, 17 had not been published before. Were it not for First Folio, most or all of them might never have seen the light of day.
Seven hundred fifty copies of First Folio were printed. Two hundred thirty four are known to have survived.
First Folio is also considered the most valuable printed book in the world. Each of the 234 remaining copies have significant value. One copy was auctioned at Christie’s in New York in 2001 for $6.16 million.
Historians and literary critics delve into Shakespeare’s sexual life. Properly so. Certain of his writings were inspired by relationships.
It appears Shakespeare was a womanizer and bisexual.
When 18, he married 26 year old Anne Hathaway. Bans were required to be announced over three days before the marriage could take place. Shakespeare got the time period short circuited to two consecutive days. Anne was pregnant. She delivered six months later.
Shakespeare wrote 26 sonnets which have come to be known as the Dark Lady sonnets. Literary experts believe they were addressed to a married woman, not his wife.
There is also evidence of Shakespeare’s many additional heterosexual liaisons.
Some of the 154 sonnets are autobiographic and are considered evidence of Shakespeare’s love for a young man.
Many phrases/expressions common to our talk today found their birth place in Shakespeare’s plays. Overwhelming in number. A few are set forth herein.
I have always been under the impression Benjamin Franklin coined “Neither a borrower nor lender be.” It was not Franklin. It was Shakespeare in Hamlet.
Other commonly used phrases and their Shakespearean source include “Dead as a door nail” (Henry VI), “Devil incarnate” (Henry V), “Eat me out of house and home” (Henry IV), “Forever and a day” (As You Like It), and “Foregone conclusion” (Othello).
There are more.
“Heart of gold” (Henry V), “Give the devil his due” (Henry IV), “Jealousy is the green-eyed monster” (Othello), “Kill with kindness” (The Taming of the Shrew), “Knock, knock! Who’s there” (Macbeth), “Love is blind” (The Merchant of Venice), “Milk of human kindness” (Macbeth), and “Wild goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet).
Not done yet. And only a handful are being shared with you.
“Too much of a good thing” (As You like It), “A heart of gold” (Henry V), “It’s Greek to me” (Julius Caesar), “Fair play” (The Tempest), and “What the dickens” (The Merry Wives of Windsor).
A few more.
“Foregone conclusion” (Othello), “In stitches” (Twelfth Night), “Naked truth” (Love’s Labour’s Lost),
“Faint-hearted” (Henry VI), “Send him packing” (Henry IV), “Vanish into thin air” (Othello), and “There’s method in my madness” (Hamlet).
In my research, I came across an unauthored comment…..Barry Manilow may claim to write the songs, but it was William Shakespeare who coined the phrases.
So it is and so it was.