April 23rd marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and celebrations honoring the world’s most famous playwright took place in the United Kingdom and across the globe. In particular, Stratford-upon-Avon hosted festivities throughout the streets including a parade, plenty of street performances, masks, and fireworks. This all lead up to a gala at the Royal Shakespeare Theater where prominent actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Sir Ian McKellen, Meera Syal, Dame Helen Mirren, and Dame Judi Dench delighted in performing tributes to the Bard of Avon. Likewise, comedians and dancers–and even Prince Charles–performed at the event. For the fans who couldn’t be present, 368 theaters throughout the UK and England screened the gala live.

Shakespeare is regarded by many to be the greatest writer in the English language, and the world’s most distinguished dramatist. His work includes approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems; collectively they give remarkable insight into the vast array of human experience, and do so with an extraordinary gift of storytelling and the development of complex characters that stand the test of time. Actor David Tennant insists, “Even if you’re completely unaware of Shakespeare’s work, what he did to our language and what he did to our cultural landscape will have influenced you, even if you’re not aware of it.” Indeed, Shakespeare is said to have invented over 1,700 words now commonly used in the English language including “addiction,” “laughable”, “flawed,” “assassination,” “bedroom,” and “generous.” Similarly, he coined popular phrases such as “heart of gold,”  “elbow room,” “good riddance” “as good luck would have it,” “eaten me out of house and home,” and “for goodness’ sake” to the English language.

But Shakespeare’s writings hold a special place in so many actors’ hearts because, as thespians, they have fully experienced the masterful writings as the words were intended to be used–that is, they were written to be spoken, not merely read. Are you an actor who has breathed life into Shakespeare’s words? What are your favorite Shakespearean quotes?

 

 

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