Today, in 1616, William Shakespeare, beloved playwright and poet, passed away. For the past 399 years, Shakespeare has continued to live through his work. An author, you see, can die twice. Once is his or her actual, physical death, and the second death is when no one reads nor remembers your work any longer. While Shakespeare has died once, he has yet to experience this second death. This blog isn’t about Shakespeare’s death, but rather is about his continued life through his works.
But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.
– William Shakespeare
I am a rumor – a story. I just happen to be true.
I started one day in a Shakespeare course at Cal Poly Pomona.
They were paired up – the brightest and most talkative girl in the class – big in size and personality. And he was the handsome, fit, and quiet boy – quiet because he slept through most of the class.
He had all of the lines, literally. He was Henry V and she was Catherine – his French speaking princess. Only, she didn’t speak French. But Catherine did in eight lines of the scene they were assigned.
Henry V had issues remembering his long-winded speeches. It might have been because they were so long. It was most likely because he had put off practicing them until the day of the scene.
Catherine had issues remembering how to say things in French. She tried to write the lines down on her hand, but she realized she also had issues reading French. French, overall, was the issue for the princess of France.
Henry V and Catherine, while never having practiced the scene completely through together, did have one agreement though – they would end their production of Henry V right before Henry’s line “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”
Catherine was happy with that plan. Henry V had a surprise.
This is where the rumor was born. This was how I was made.
Henry V pulled the teacher aside before class and begged to use his copy of Shakespeare’s play to remember his words.
Catherine declined and tried to read her horribly scribbled French lines off of her hand.
Henry V and Catherine both forgot about Catherine’s maid, Alice. An Alice was pulled out of the audience and stuck into the scene.
Alice didn’t know her words either nor any of the staging. She assumed there would be staging. Henry V and Catherine never really got that far.
Alice was standing between Catherine and Henry when the dreaded line was said “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”
Catherine’s eyes opened wide and a slight look of horror swept across her face as Henry pushed aside Alice and took Catherine in his arms.
Henry V pulled Catherine close. His hand touched her cheek.
His thumb found itself over her lips, so when his lips approached, they were both kissing his thumb.
The class gasped.
Henry V thought himself clever.
Overall, the performance was awful. The Bard was probably rolling over in his grave.
The teacher gave Henry V and Catherine a solid B.
And now everyone remembers me as that time that one girl got kissed in Dr. Aaron’s Shakespeare class.
– Amanda Riggle
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
– William Shakespeare
I didn’t know until I saw the picture. In it, you sit in a black wheelchair with your straight hair parted down the middle. Your smile is stiff, like your spine, as three girls lean in around you. Their faces are like the sun. Their hair is spun from it, and I think–why didn’t I know? And then, why would I?
When I think of you, I think of Shakespeare. Of light and dark, and that day we had to demonstrate it.
We stood in front of the classroom. Everything I did, you did. Two halves of a whole. Iago. Both good and bad.
“What do you want to do after this?” I said. My head was perched on my knees as I plucked grass from the courtyard. We were rehearsing.
“I’m going to be lawyer,” you said.
Sometimes, I pass a stranger and, for a second, our eyes meet. And in that second, time seems to catch itself—a ripple pushing us together—before it rights again. That’s kind of what talking to you felt like, being stripped bare.
I know bent spines and weak cages. All that they house.
Someone said something I didn’t quite catch–a joke about lawyers–and you laughed. A head back, belly full of air kind of laugh.
There you are.
– Melanie Figueroa
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
– William Shakespeare