A happy memory from my Senior year in highschool was celebrating Shakespeare's 411th birthday with my good friends Etta and Marilyn. We checked out the book Dining With William Shakespeare from the library. We baked Cornish Pasties and Shrewsbury Cakes. We drove downtown (St. Louis) to see a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by The New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco (on tour). We spent hours making these buttons for everyone in our Shakespeare class to wear:
Since that festive occasion when we went all out, I have tried to honor Shakespeare's birthday in my heart and keep it in at least some small way every year.
Today, I share with you the words of another great English poet, John Dryden:
Shakespeare [1564 - 1616] . . . was the man who of all Modern, and perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too. . . . he was naturally learn'd; he needed not the spectacles of Books to read Nature; he look'd inwards, and found her there. . . . he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him: no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of the Poets, "As cypresses usually do among supple trees."
The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eaton say, That there was no subject of which any Poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better treated of in Shakespeare; and however others are now generally prefer'd before him, yet the Age wherein he liv'd, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Johnson never equall'd them to him in their esteem: And in the last Kings Court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the Courtiers, set our Shakespeare far above him.
. . . If I would compare him [Ben Jonson] with Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct Poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit. Shakespeare was the Homer, or Father of our Dramatick Poets; Johnson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire him, but I love Shakespeare.
by John Dryden (1631 - 1700)
English Poet and Literary Critic
from his Essay of Dramatick Poesie, 1668
as edited by Jack Lynch
And to conclude:
Maybe not "the most unkindest cut of all,"
but a taunt, a jest from my brother Bruce:
For your birthday,
I relinquish to you the right to use
any of my material and claim it as your own.
With warmest personal regards,
Sir Francis Bacon
If in the years to come,
they should ascribe my works to you,
well, no hard feelings!
Yours by the pen,