Family Movie Night

This week is the birth anniversary of the immortal bard, William Shakespeare.

Picture by Kudos Kid

I am sure some of you are saying “Who Cares?” Or “why does this guy who writes such stilted English matter to me?”

Shakespeare is relevant to us today because it is his form and style we follow to this day in our movies. He didn’t invent play-writing but he certainly improved upon the form. His plays would be known for their bawdy humor and thrilling action scenes. No one else has been able to write a love scene in the manner that he did.

The wonder of Shakespeare never ends because I see him as a real man who came from obscurity and an education at the public school to write plays that covered everything from romantic comedy to war stories to histories. His plays talk of life and death, love and a Machiavellian plan for power while relying on superstition, ghosts and faeries playing tricks on humans.

Once you dig into his life a little more, you see a complex man. His public school allegedly rivaled the top British boys’ school of Eton, teaching Latin and Greek. His father was a successful tradesman as well as the high bailiff for Stratford-Upon-Avon who would see his fortunes fall in later years when Will was a teen. He was a known poacher in his later teen years and may have had to leave the area to avoid authorities.

Now there is a period of eight years that is unknown. Who knows what the man was doing. One speculation is that he was an assistant schoolmaster. However, once he shows in London in the 1590s, he takes it by storm. He becomes a celebrated actor with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men troupe as well as writing for the group, his plays are being sold after the performances. He also becomes a managing partner in the troupe and has part ownership of the Globe Theater.

When he retires in 1611, Shakespeare is able to buy a home in Stratford and retire comfortably. He passes away in 1616, making one last dig at his wife, Anne, in his will by giving her his “second best bed.”

Because of his business dealings, he can understand The Merchant of Venice (2004). And don’t discount the fact that his father was in local politics. This would allow a young Will see his ‘betters’ and their servants, knowing how all of them acted. Suddenly, we see plays such as Twelfth Night, Macbeth and Hamlet in a different light.

Romeo and Juliet Statue in Central Park, NYC. Picture by Mono Sodium

We know Shakespeare knew love, or at least lust, in his teen years. Imagine how that led to Romeo and Juliet (Pick your favorite version) or A Midsummer’s Night Dream (1999).  The historical plays all had a bent toward seeing the Tudors in a good light, as one must do when you are being patronized by the Tudor Queen but are still glorious for the speeches the king makes before going into battle as in Henry V (1989) with Kenneth Branaugh.

Finally, we know the Shakespeare thought much about death and the end of life with his plays The Tempest (2010) with Helen Mirren as Prospera and King Lear (new version coming in 2012 starring Al Pacino).

Shakespeare’s words are mesmerizing. Just watch Shakespeare In Love (1998) and pay attention to the scenes when the play is being performed. I find myself being drawn into the play as much as the fake audience. When Juliet revives, I feel the same surprise as the audience. That is what the Bard does and has done for the last 500 years since his death. He astounds, amazes and mystifies.

All of this from a man who had only a few years of schooling, was a known poacher and never went to university.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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