23 April 2016
Tim Koch goes highbrow:
William Shakespeare died 400 years ago today. While there are no records giving his date of birth, it is known that he was Christened on 26 April 1564 and it was the custom in those days for this to be done three days after a birth. Thus, he probably died on his birthday – which must have spoilt the party. In the Bard’s time, ‘Hear The Boat Sing’ was known as ‘Hark, Tis The Lyric Of The Waterborne’ and was written in the form of sonnets which were nailed to a tree by Örjan the Norse*. Sadly, Shakespeare never contributed to HTTLOTW, had he done so, he may have been better known as a writer today. He clearly had potential – as this description of Cleopatra’s barge from Act II, Scene II of Antony and Cleopatra shows:
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water. The poop was beaten gold,
Purple the sails, and so perfumèd that
The winds were lovesick with them. The oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes.
Such lines make some recall the words of Paster:
More than any other single corpus of imaginative literature, Shakespeare’s works prove the immortality and universality of secular art.
However, if you are like me, you will read them and think: He said ‘poop’.
*Editor’s note: Örjan, ancient Swedish form for Göran, or Old German form for Jurian or Jurien, and English George. In Sweden, there is a special name day calendar sanctioned by the Swedish Academy and on the 23 of April, the names that are celebrated are Georg and Göran.