Don’t mess with the bard

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Much has been written about the talent of The Bard. As it happens, his birthday was only a few days ago. Having a birthday on St George’s day doesn’t automatically explain why the Shakespeare occupies the space he does at the heart of English language and culture. Other culturally significant creative writers of the language such as Chaucer do not share the same birth date. I enjoy Chaucer’s work almost as much. There is something else about Shakespeare’s sensibility that gives him an edge, however.

 I have an ambivalent relationship with the output of these writers, possibly because of the uneasy subject of British imperialism and colonialism. Due to the history of British involvement in the history of my forbears, it can sometimes appear to be gauche when a person of my heritage expresses admiration for the output of heroes of those who oppressed my ancestors. I shall ignore that issue today, to muse about the usefulness of Shakespeare’s work.

The first time I remember being part of a creative team that staged one of the bard’s plays was in a major production of As You Like it. I learnt a huge amount about the capacity that great poets have for painting pictures with words, from that experience.

What does it feel like to really be in love? Some folks know a lot about this aspect of the human condition, but it isn’t essentially for everyone. On the other hand, one doesn’t have to look like a major Hollywood star to have access to the sensation. Shakespeare was able to make this clear to anyone who wants to know about it.

Someone who dedicated many years of his life to the practice of Shakespearean verse speaking made me understand that it isn’t an easy task to get to the heart of what the bard wrote. If an artist doesn’t have the life experience of the almost banal side of being loved up, perhaps he or she should focus on presenting work that lies within his or her expressive range.