Shakespeare’s Birthday

A ‘Found’ Poem for Shakespeare’s Birthday, 23rd April 2020

We are likely to see a number of articles this week making comparisons between our current situation in self-isolation amidst a global pandemic and Shakespeare’s own forced quarantine during various outbreaks of the plague in 16th and 17th century England. While it is remarkable to discover that the plague shut London’s theatres for a total of 78 months during perhaps Shakespeare’s most critically celebrated writing period, we can only speculate as to the precise correlation between London’s lockdown and the production of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. However, historians have deduced (with much more certainty) that Shakespeare did use his time away from the stage to develop and hone his skills as a poet.

The focus of this post, then, will not be on whether the Bard of Avon penned the likes of King LearMacbeth, or Antony and Cleopatra while stuck indoors against his will; instead, it shall focus on some of the most pertinent and inspiring words from across his collection of literary works to offer us comfort and advice during this unsettling period.

A ‘found’ poem (one that takes fragments of existing texts and refashions/reorders them to form a new poem) is a concept to which I was introduced while studying poetry at university. While this form is not to everyone’s tastes, I hope that Shakespeare (who was probably the world’s most creative and successful adapter of existing narratives himself) would at least have approved of what I’ve attempted to do here. Using quotes from various Shakespearean texts, I have remodelled and embellished the great playwright’s words to form a complete poem for our current situation.

Happy birthday Shakespeare!

 

Shakespeare (mostly) on coping with Covid-19 – Sonnet 155?

In these difficult times, let’s take things wisely and slow

As those who run fast will often stumble;

To climb hills requires a slow pace at first.

Instead, let hope be swift and fly with swallow’s wings –

Indeed, when we are miserable, the best medicine is hope.

So we will embrace you, sour adversity,

For Shakespeare says it is the wisest course

(He never sat and wailed about his loss

But cheerily sought to overcome his pains).

Our friendships must remain the constant in all things,

And even though our life is a mingled tale

Of good fortune and bad luck mixed together,

Lay aside life-harming heaviness,

And entertain a cheerful disposition!

 

As part of our celebrations for Shakespeare’s birthday, please encourage your daughters to engage with the following activities found in the Assemblies and School Messages channel (01) of the Tutor team:

  • Complete the Teams poll and vote for your favourite Shakespearean speech from a choice of 6 of his greatest. The speech with the most votes will be performed (online) by our very own Mr Sykes!
  • Shakespeare tableau photo competition: take a picture of you and your family re-enacting your favourite scene from any Shakespeare play. Be inventive with props and costumes! Send your photos to [email protected] by Monday 27th April. Winners will be chosen by the English department.
  • Have a go at this week’s Shakespeare-themed Lit Quiz with your tutor groups or families to find out who knows Shakespeare the best!
  • Watch any of the following YouTube videos about Shakespeare, his work and his life:

BBC Teach i.am.will series:

What’s so special about Shakespeare? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyAkpZHnDpI

Patrick Stewart reading #asonnetaday on social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube)

 

Matthew Ryan-East

Head of English