Did you know, Shakespeare has been dead for 400 years? Well, 400 years and two days actually, as the day before yesterday was the anniversary of his death in 1616.
There’s a lot of contention around his life and his work – who was he really? Did he write those plays or did someone else write them? Is he still relevant in a modern world? What is the truth about Shakespeare?
I don’t know the answers to those questions and I don’t even support a theory. But to be honest, I don’t really care either. The question I find myself wondering is: does it really matter?
The one thing that we do know is that even now, 400 long years after his death, we remember him. Even now, after 400 long years in which the world has changed completely and then changed completely again, Shakespeare’s works form a staple part of our literary diet. We study him in school, we watch him in the theatre. We say the words and phrases that he invented, and we use his work as a basis for hundreds of books, films, and television shows. Shakespeare is an integral part of our literary landscape, yes, but he’s also an integral part of our everyday life, from the way we speak to the way we entertain ourselves.
Pretty impressive, right?
Immortality is a lovely dream. There are many of us who would like to cheat death and I often wonder to myself if being remembered, especially to the degree that Shakespeare is remembered, is in itself a form of immortality. Okay, so it’s probably not quite the immortality that most of us dream of – being able to see the future and the developments that come with it, discovering whether all those sci-fi books and films were right (I’m guessing not), spending every possible moment with our loved ones – but being remembered is a form of immortality.
At risk of sounding like a cheesy obituary, Shakespeare lives on in all of us. That’s not to say that he always will, of course, but 400-odd years is better than most of us get. Unless you do something spectacular (be it good or bad), the chances of you being remembered in 100 years, let alone 400, are slim. As maudlin as this thought may be, I’d like to be remembered in 400 years time – wouldn’t you?
Now all I’ve to work out is: what do I want to be remembered for? Well, I’m working on that one…