April 23, 2012


In 1616, on this day, William Shakespeare died. If, by some miracle he had survived, today he’d be 448 years old. Of course, we all know Shakespeare survives through his art, beautifully written plays and poetry that have become part of western culture’s DNA. I do believe that there have been writers as good as Shakespeare, Marlowe being one, but there is no one whose descriptions of the human experiences remain as quotable. If I had to pick one or two phrasings that did him credit, the first would be from “As You Like It:

          “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. (“As You Like It” II, vii, 139-143)

His observation needs no explanation, and I suspect he meant no irony when he named his theater, The Globe.

The second quote I admire is from “The Merchant of Venice” and one I wish we held nearer to our hearts:

          “The quality of mercy is not strained.  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.

          It is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives and him that taketh”. (“Merchant of Venice,” IV, I, 180-187)

448 years have passed since William Shakespeare enunciated these truths that life is brief and how we conduct ourselves among ourselves makes our world a heaven or hell.

(Portia. courtesy: Wikipedia)

Being creatures somewhere between apes and gods, Shakespeare reminds to show patience with our progress and, it is my opinion, we are making progress. A growing sense of human rights and democracy is creeping across the planet. But the road is not sure, nor swift nor certain. So today, I pause to thank Shakespeare for so eloquently reminding us that our fate lies not in our stars but in ourselves. (paraphrased from “Julius Caesar,” I, ii, 140-141)