As a native of Coventry, Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, was only twenty miles down the road and the nearest place for a bit of culture. My earliest memories of visits to Stratford are of feeding the ducks on the River Avon, but later I went on many school trips to an afternoon matinee at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. My secondary school placed a lot of emphasis on the Bard and in each year school we studied (and performed) a different play: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Twelfth Night, then Romeo and Juliet for O level and King Lear at A level. Shakespeare was also used as a form of punishment, so instead of writing lines for committing a wrong we would be forced to write out reams of verse, or learn parts by heart. Perhaps that’s why, all these years later, I can still recite my favourite Shakespearean lines.
Favourite Shakespeare quotations
As 2016 is billed as the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death I thought that I would share with you my three favourite quotations. Perhaps they seem to be a little on the pessimistic or morbid side! The first quotation, taken from Julius Caesar, stresses the importance of seizing an opportunity when it arises. The second quotation from Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies, full of pessimism and despair, given by Macbeth in response to learning of the death of his wife, Lady Macbeth. The third quotation is from Cymbeline. The Song is in fact a much longer poem about trying to help someone cope with death. It’s well worth reading the full version if you are unfamiliar with it. As a fourth-former I recited this at a lunchtime event at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry with one of my classmates so it has always remained in my memory.
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat
And we must take the current when it serves,
or lose our ventures.
(Julius Caesar, Act-IV, Scene-III, Lines 218-224)
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene V, Lines 19-28)
Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
(Song: from Cymbeline)
I’d love to find out about your favourite Shakespeare quotations – perhaps they are more cheerful than mine! Leave me a comment, post on Facebook or Tweet me. Meanwhile, if the Shakespeare celebrations have whetted your appetite for a trip to Stratford upon Avon or one of the other events around the UK there is lots of information on the Shakespeare 400 website.