Celebrating Shakespeare

As far as I’m concerned, April is the Bard’s month. He was born in April and died 400 years ago on the 23rd, and still, his life and writing have been the subject of historians and researchers worldwide since then. He is probably the most studied writer and, as an avid reader, writer, and literature major, I have appreciated his canon and proudly call him my favorite writer of all time when I am made to choose. Shakespeare’s plays have explored the whole range of human emotions and behavior in an wide variety of settings, from the fantastic to the historical. He has left no topic sacred and has delved into the passions and motivations of no less than emperors and kings, but has not ignored the wealthy and educated as well. His works are enquiries into human nature, especially of those who wield power and are leaders of society. In that, he is quite the opposite of Dickens, who explores the lives of the impoverished and downtrodden. While his plays and sonnets have been read and analyzed to no end and students are able to count on set notes and study guides to dissect them according to literary paradigms, you will always be able to find something new with each reading–indeed, this is true for works with incredible depth. Best of all, is how, because of the universal truths we find in his works, we are able to relate to them, no matter what the age or era. There have been several interpretations of many of his works, updating them so that we can relate better to the stories. The fact that his plays lend themselves so easily to adaptations in different eras is proof of their timelessness, one of the characteristics of classical art. While Shakespeare’s works are just over 400 years and certainly, nowhere near the age of Greek and Roman classics, his works have withstood that test of time and, finding relevance even in the present day, will, undoubtedly continue to entertain readers and playgoers, scholars and critics alike, for more centuries to come.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists 410 feature-length films made for both big screen and television all over the world. While a great number are British, with several produced by BBC, there are a good number of American productions. More surprising might be Indian productions–but if you look at it in the light of the British colonization of India and, hence, exposure to Shakespeare, that is not really surprising at all; in fact, you would think there should be more. Among the most critically-acclaimed adaptations were  Japanese filmmaker Akiro Kurosawa’s Ran, an adaptation of King Lear; Throne of Blood (Macbeth), and The Bad Sleep Well (Hamlet). Among the more recent Shakespearean films I particularly enjoy are Kenneth Branagh’s productions, although he hasn’t done any in the last 10 years.


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