William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago today! pic.twitter.com/MM7t3oChiQ
— Historical Pics (@HistoricalPics) April 23, 2014
Daniel Hannan notes the occasion:
Four-hundred-and-fifty years ago today, in a village in the West Midlands, the greatest imaginative intelligence evolved by our species was born. Lawrence Olivier called Shakespeare “the nearest thing in incarnation to the eye of God”. John Dryden wrote that, of all the poets, “he had the largest and most comprehensive soul”. Thomas Carlyle asserted, “I know not such a power of vision, such a faculty of thought, if we take all the characters of it, in any other man.” For Harold Bloom, “Bardolatry, the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is. The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually.”
Bob Duggan traces the spread of bardolatry:
Once the modern taste for the individual took hold … Shakespeare found a home beyond England’s shores. American colonists staged plays by Shakespeare as early as 1750. “There is hardly a pioneer’s hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835 in Democracy in America. From the very beginning of the American experiment in democracy, Shakespeare and his individualized characters inspired a government of, by, and for the people, to paraphrase the Gettysburg Address of that notorious Shakespeare lover Abraham Lincoln. As kings fell and democracies rose throughout Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, Shakespeare (often in vernacular translation) showed the way, sometimes in the form of music, as in Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Otello and Falstaff, which provided the popular soundtrack to the political movement by which modern Italy was born.