347 - Shakespeare International Superstar!

Helen Hackett (Standard British accent)

So this year, in 2016, we’re celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and that means there are going to be lots and lots of events in London, across the UK and across the globe as well because of course Shakespeare has a huge global presence now, so we’re going to be seeing lots of conferences, lots of events, lots of talks, lots of performances as we all get together to celebrate Shakespeare 400 years on. One thing that’s interesting to do is to think back about how these kind of commemorations started and in fact they go back a long way; some of the first commemorations of Shakespeare anniversaries were in the 18th century, in the 19th century. If we go back 100 years, in 1916, even though it was wartime, there were efforts to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. One example of that is a volume that was compiled with nearly 200 contributors from all over the world who came together to present a really rich volume of excerpts, poems, essays, thoughts about Shakespeare, to mark his 300th anniversary.

And we can see on the front it’s beautifully produced and on the front it’s got the Shakespeare coat of arms that he applied for in the 1590s and had successfully awarded. There’s his spear, the Shakespeare emblem. It’s beautifully produced on very beautifully made paper. It’s called A Book of Homage to Shakespeare to Commemorate the 300th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death. And it begins with the portrait of Shakespeare that appears at the front of The First Folio, the edition of his collected plays that came out in 1623, originally just seven years after his death. It includes numerous contributions: there are about 100 contributions from writers all across the British Empire. They’re led by Thomas Hardy, who contributed a poem – that’s the opening item – but also lots of really widely flung, widely sourced contributions. So, for instance, we have here a poem by the Indian poet Tagore: there’s the original poem in the original script; there’s the translation. There are contributions from the Burmese Buddhists. So we’re getting a very kind of vivid sense of Shakespeare’s global reach here. And we also have several Italian contributions. So one here on Dante and Shakespeare, two more here, another linking Hamlet to Giordano Bruno, so a number of Italian contributors, showing already in 1916 how important Shakespeare had become in Italy.