What we can learn from William Shakespeare


Lessons from the bard.

I’m in Warwickshire at the moment, having a few days R and R before the start of the new teaching term and hopefully, finding some writing time for my new book. Warwickshire is a beautiful county and inevitably I’ve been thinking about Shakespeare as his birthplace, Stratford–upon-Avon is only about twenty minutes away from where we are staying.

Where would we be without Shakespeare? Well, for starters we wouldn’t have nearly forty amazing plays nor or those wonderful poems. We wouldn’t have phrases like ‘To the Manor born’, ‘To thine own self be true,’ ‘For goodness’ sake,’ ‘With bated breath’ and many more.

 But more importantly, I think, we wouldn’t have those insights into human nature that underpin all great literature. These traits have always been there, but Shakespeare makes them memorable through great writing and powerful characters. So we understand that people who are themselves consumed with jealousy are best placed to engender that quality in others (Othello), that we can think we are in love but that pales into insignificance when we meet our true soul mate (Romeo and Juliet), that testing a lover’s commitment can be a very dangerous game to play (Antony and Cleopatra), that the loss of a dad and a mother’s remarriage can have a devastating effect on a child’s mental health (Hamlet) and that power can be a terrible and corrupting force (Macbeth).

No wonder Shakespeare’s plays have produced so many modern spin offs or provided the plot for many contemporary novels. I’ve probably taught Othello more than twenty times in my teaching career yet I always see something new in it.

 So I’ll be raising a glass to the bard tonight and thank him for inspiring writers for over 400 years. Not many of us can aspire to that!