Just As We Like It by Ann Evans

As you know, it was the birthday and anniversary of the world's most famous writer a few weeks ago. The 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and of course what would have been his 452nd birthday.

It's funny just how much a part of our lives he is. Most of us would have studied Shakespeare when we were at school and I wonder was it just me or did anyone else used to hate the way teachers analysed every word and phrase so that you never seemed to get to read the entire play?

I don't think I really appreciated Shakespeare until quite recently, although I do vaguely remember playing the part of Oberon King of the Fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream in a school play. However, it's all very vague – as if the brain is blocking out a bad experience! I also remember playing Mr Hardcastle from She Stoops to Conquer where our poor English teacher would probably give her eye teeth to forget the performance our group of 14 year olds put on – as the poor lady went off sick with a bad case of nerves following that particular performance.

Sculpture depicting
A Midsummer Nights
But back to the brilliance of the Bard. And he was brilliant - you only have to look at all the everyday phrases that he first introduced to the English language. Phrases that we take for granted. In fact a lot of them are so commonplace that writers would treat many as clichés and edit them out of whatever we're writing. But we certainly do use many of them in our conversations.

For example:
“Jealousy is the green-eyed monster” (Othello.)
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” (Hamlet.)
“Cold comfort” (The Taming of the Shrew / King John)
“All our yesterdays” (Macbeth)
“Dead as a doornail” (Henry VI)
“Good riddance” (Troilus and Cressida)
“Wild-goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet)
“Knock knock! Who’s there?” (Macbeth)
“Laughing stock” (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

Just ask Google and you'll find dozens more!

Shakespeare's birthplace

Living not very far from Stratford upon Avon, I absolutely love a day out in the historic town. Combine this with writing for magazines, and it's resulted in a number of different Stratford and Shakespeare related articles appearing in B-C-ing-U which is an online mag that I write voluntary for; and, I've been told today an article on Shakespeare's Gardens that I wrote last year and submitted early this year, will be coming out in Cotswold Life magazine in July, which I'm really pleased about.

Also quite recently, my book Kicked Into Touch came out. Published by Badger Learning for reluctant teen readers - that is teenagers with a reading age of 6-7 years. Mine was one of a series of 8 illustrated short books – all based on Shakespeare's works. Called Dark Reads II the series is a modern way 'in' to Shakespeare. Each title takes inspiration from a different play and provides a subtle link to its concept, while being an exciting and tense tale in its own right.

Mine was based on Macbeth, and tells the story of George King, a teenager who wants to be king of the rugby pitch. Egged on by three girls on the sidelines, nothing stands in George's way. It's illustrated by the fantastic Kev Hopgood.

Reluctant reader series based on
Shakespeare's plays

Makes you wonder if the works of any of today's writers will still be enjoyed, read, studied and adapted 400 years from now. 

Big thank you to Rob Tysall of Tysall's Photography for the Stratford images. (www.tysallsphotography.org.uk)

More of my books on www.annevansbooks.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ann-Evans-Books-146957850210/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annevansauthor

Facebook, see more of my article work with Rob Tysall here:  https://www.facebook.com/wordsandimagesuk/?fref=ts


Jan Needle said…
Don't want to rain on the parade, but as old Bill nicked most of his plots, isn't it quite likely that many of the phrases people cite as 'his' were in fact part of everyday speech at the time? It's a bit like saying Tommy Cooper invented 'not like this, like that.' Maybe, as the owner of a couple of theatres, with the actors' parts in his gift, he got sent a lot of plays to consider for performance and thought (like Burglar Bill?) 'that's a nice phrase. I'll 'ave that!' Only sayin'

Do like the idea he invented the knock knock joke, though. That's got the ring of truth, if I may borrow a Bardism!
Nick Green said…
It's true that many phrases we use today are first found in Shakespeare, but even if he did invent them, I don't think that's the reason to say he's brilliant. We remember the phrases BECAUSE he was brilliant, not the other way around. His plays lasted, so the phrases fell into common use, and/or endured where others were forgotten.

I think the thing that makes Shakespeare supreme was that he was arguably the first writer to achieve psychological realism and true character depth, rather than just tell a story. If you compare even a great playwright like Marlowe, Doctor Faustus is more a morality tale than a true character study. Only with Shakespeare do you start to get people who feel like more than fictional creations.

The Macbeth-as-rugby-player book sounds like a brilliant idea! Must introduce that series to my two.

Lydia Bennet said…
I agree with Nick, Shakespeare's the man, total genius imo. It's the powerful language and how he gets into people's heads which keep him on top and part of our everyday speech. The phrases attributed to him are those whose first recorded use is in his work, some of them no doubt might have been used in speech. It doesn't matter, nor does his using plots from elsewhere, even now plots are not copyright and are recycled endlessly on films and tv, and then there was no copyright as such. It's incredible that we have so much of his work, largely due to the dudes who brought out the First Folio of which an astonishing number still survive, considering the publication date a few years after his death. Plays like Macbeth, every time I see or read them, I find new insight and sheer power. Good luck with your books based on the plays!
Jan Needle said…
Just in case anyone's got the wrong end of the stick, I'm pretty wild about Shakespeare myself. But Bardolatry (GBS, I think?) is also pretty rife. He wrote plenty of bad lines, too. She hath played the trumpet in my bed, to name but one. (or was it the trombone?)

That's a joke, btw.
Dennis Hamley said…
Was so busy yesterday I've only just seen this. Yes, Shakespeare was the man all right and Nick's notion of why is spot on. And I do recognise that possibly not all his quotations are necessarily him speaking for the first time. But anyone who can make a universal statement by adding 'is' and 'to' to the abstract qualities of 'soul, 'wit' and 'brevity is to my mind a real genius.
Dennis Hamley said…
I meant 'the' of course.

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