Saturday, 23 April 2016
It's interesting that another Google widget is directing me to the pious connexion between Shakespeare's anniversary and St George's day. Why do we assume that men die on precise dates? In 1616 England followed the venerable Julian Kalendar, unlike Spain whose most famous bard (or rather novelist) Cervantes died on the same date, but not on the same day, as Shakespeare, that is upon the twenty-third day of April (new style), exactly four hundred years ago to-day. I believe that four centuries ago there was a discrepancy of ten or eleven days between the two kalendars. England didn't capitulate to the false kalendar until the 18th century and, like our antient currency and imperial weights and measures, I wish we'd go back.
My English teacher once stupidly told me that England had a Reformation, not a Renaissance. Like Tolkien, I'm not particularly keen on Shakespeare but he stands firmly against that assertion. I think my favourite Shakespeare-inspired quotation is: "prick me and I bleed." I often say that to people who accuse me of snobbery.
This halting post shews up just how ignorant I am of English literature, doesn't it. We read only Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth at school. When I told my Latin teacher at Heythrop she was appalled, and said that she had studied three different Shakespeare works a year, every year she was at school. I suppose we have government philistines to thank for that. The attitude that says: "oh, there's no point in memorising lists of dead kings or repeating lines of old poetry ad nauseum. We need to get a general sense of how we got to where we are instead." Mrs Granden, my Latin teacher at school, once said that she was not teaching us Latin to make us fluent, but she was grateful that I took an interest and gave me some old battered books (which I still have), books that she used to use before waves of dumbed-down new curricula took over. It's the same with Shakespeare. I now have no inclination whatever to read Shakespeare, or to see a play at the Globe Theatre, because I never liked it at school, and we were never encouraged to like it. But I would say that it would have been nice to have had the opportunity.