SALT LAKE CITY — It was William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday Wednesday and his influence hasn’t diminished much in those long years since his popularity rose in the days of Queen Elizabeth.
Becky, a Tumblr user from London, posted a doodle in 2011 that has since become the go-to screen grab to illustrate just how much modern language we owe to The Bard. Phrases like “full circle,” “vanish into thin air” and “heart of gold.”
“Many people are put off by classic literature because the language is foreign to them,” Becky wrote on her blog. “They can read the words, but they don’t understand them. This might discourage them from pursuing it further.”
Alexandra Petri at the The Washington Post wrote a humorous happy birthday post about how Shakespeare is still relevant, yet his language has been destroyed by those who are convinced it is difficult to understand.
“What is Shakespeare without the language?” Petri wrote. “A set of powerful stories, yes, but the telling makes a great deal of difference. Shakespeare quotations used to pepper everyone’s conversation. These were comparatively all over the place in past centuries — our contemporaries 200 years ago could not get enough of ‘the milk of human kindness.’ But by the turn of the millennium, even the mainstream quotations — ‘to be or not to (be),’ ‘Dogs of War’ — huge in 1920 — seem to be slipping.”
Petri said there is a lot of pressure put on Shakespeare to entertain. He always makes us laugh or cry just like we expect.
“The remarkable thing about Shakespeare,” Robert Graves told Petri, “is that he is really very good in spite of all the people who say he is very good.”
The Oxford Dictionary has a delightful “How Shakespearean are you?” generator. Enter a block of text, and it will tell you how the language you use matches that of the language of Shakespeare himself. (This post is 77 percent Shakespearean - “a very palpable hit.”)