2016-04-23

To be or not to be – that is the question

I am sure that these words are extremely familiar to most of the world that speak English. I would also expect that they might be known by many who do not speak English â€" and if the English words are not known by them then it is pretty certain that they know the translation in their own language. As almost everyone will know these words were written by William Shakespeare and appear in his play ‘Hamlet’.

Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire in England. The exact date is unknown, however as he was baptised on 26th April his birthday is generally celebrated as 23rd (which also coincides with St George’s Day). He died on 23rd April 1616.

So this year commemorates 400 years since his death and there are special celebrations this year, not only in England but throughout the world.

His works include about 38 plays (exact number unknown), 154 sonnets and 2 long narrative poems. They have been translated into every major language in the world and are performed more than those of any other playwright.

However, one might be prompted to ask how and why his plays have survived over 400 years. The language used is archaic by our modern standards and it is impossible for a native English speaker to understand his plays without reference to notes. An explanation is needed as to what some of the words mean as they have either disappeared entirely from the English language or their meaning has changed. Also many of the in play references that would have been common knowledge to Shakespeare’s audience are lost on us today, without some kind of explanation. So one can only imagine how difficult it is to translate these into other languages.

Perhaps the reason for the survival and success of Shakespeare’s plays are that he wrote about topical issues. Of course, he had to be very careful about being openly critical of the important people of the time â€" especially the nobility and monarchy â€" but by working within the confines of, say, a historical play he was able to make his point.

There have, of course, been various interpretations of his plays â€" what was he actually saying? It may be that this fluidity of interpretations and the fact that the issues raised within the plays seem to still be with us today that makes them endure so much. At any rate their popularity seems to show no sign of declining. Will they be with us for another 400 years?

We will start a small competition, where you have to translate Shakespeare quotes into RedZoneAction.org-terms...you can find it in the Forum. There is something to win for the winner and the runner-up of this competition.

If you feel prompted to learn more about Shakespeare you can start here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

The British Council are putting on a number of events this year which are detailed here

http://www.shakespearelives.org/

And details of the Stratford-upon-Avon festivities can be found at Shakespeare’s England

http://shakespeares-england.co.uk/shakespeare-2016.

Written by user Captain Jack

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