R.I.P. THE BARD – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

An obituary was recently published in the Stratford upon Avon Herald and Chronicle.

‘In memory of our dear departed, William Shakespeare, who passed away on this fateful day the Twenty third of April in the year of our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Sixteen four hundred years ago.

Mourned by his widow Anne Hathaway and his two surviving children, his Son in Law John Hall and the thousands of literary folk who rejoiced at the drama, comedy, romance, folktale and tragedy of his forty or so Plays, not to mention his 160 poetic sonnets.

Collabarators, contributors, patrons, fellow actors and playwrights all share with the Shakespeare family and the people of Stratford upon Avon in the great grief at his sudden loss.

He wishes only to be remembered as the Bard and by the few words of Ben Jonson, the companion with whom he drew his last breath while supping an ale at a tavern on the banks of the river Avon one springtime evening.

As a man for all time.

William Shakespeare was buried in the crypt at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon a week after his death which he had specifically bought and reserved for himself a few years earlier.

Exactly four hundred years after his death, the plays of William Shakespeare are still performed to an ever expanding and adoring audience, drawing in American presidents to his theatrical heartland, the Globe Theatre in London.

None of us can claim to have truly known this great man or known him at all.

William Shakespeare was not only a man for all time but he was the soul of the age with a brain like a sponge and a vocabulary expansive like no other living soul before or since.

If such words were ever spoken by Ben Jonson, then I have just taken the words right out of his mouth and off the tip of his tongue.

He was a commoner, an opportunist who took advantage of a local grammar school education and learnt latin and greek.

He embraced the age of renaissance and produced literature to a level of which, to repeat my words, it has not been produced, by an Englishman at least, before or since.

He was privileged from childhood to have known the influential Lord Leicester and to have witnessed the spectacle of the pageant Lord Leicester hosted at nearby Kenilworth Castle for Queen Elizabeth I.

Immortal words ‘I do not forget a face’ were spoken to the young William Shakespeare by the visiting Queen and they proved to be words of great truth in later years.

This obituary reflects on that momentous, fateful spring evening.

William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson supping ale.  White swans swimming along on the expanse of the river Avon before them.

Sycamore trees stretching down to the waters edge.

In the distance to the left they could see light traffic on the stone bridge and the Clopton Manor, the home of Hugh Clopton, the man who had been so spiritually guiding and inspirational in his early days.

As the two men glanced down river, they could see the Holy Trinity Church.

The end was in sight.

This was the Stratford upon Avon William Shakespeare knew on his fifty second birthday.

There was no fanfare or farewell to herald the demise of such a man who had done so much to put literature and the midlands town of Stratford upon Avon on the world map.

It was left to theatre enthusiast David Garrick to ensure that William Shakespeare and his literary works of art were recognized in a more meaningful and significant way.

The First Folio had been produced, published and printed seven years after his death as a compilation of his greatest works but it was not enough to do justice to the Bard.

A wonderful new theatre was built on the banks of the river Avon, close to the spot where the last ale was supped and where Shakespeare plays could be performed.

Each year since on the 23rd April, a Shakespeare festival is held in Stratford upon Avon in and around the theatre with people coming from all around the world to enjoy.

There is nothing more to be said.

Rest in Peace.  The Bard.  William Shakespeare.  1564 – 1616.’

 

 

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