This week marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. All over the world theatres, arts organizations and literature lovers unite and reflect on the work of William Shakespeare and how it continues to be relevant force within academia, arts and contemporary culture.
Many Shakespeare organizations and non-profits like our own have been in participating in literary discussions, debates and promotional campaigns to mark the death of a man and the collection of work we still love dear. The Guardian posted a great article this week reflecting on how Shakespeare continues to resonate. They state in the article that “Every generation continues to be in his debt” (McCrum, 2016). This statement indeed rings true for us.
Here at Shakespeare In Action, we are continually reminded of how the work of Shakespeare transcends time, language and cultural differences. For over 25 years, we have seen numerous children, teens and adults discover and re-discover the text of Shakespeare. There is a kind of magic that is produced when the lines have been learned and spoken in perfect Iambic Pentameter. When those who otherwise may not have had the self-confidence shed their shyness and perform with enthusiasm and love for the story.
Our philosophy at Shakespeare in Action is to give access to Arts and Culture to those who might otherwise be denied. Too often systemic systems of class dictate who might be exposed and taught Shakespeare, acting and art. We believe that access to art and Shakespeare’s works are fundamental in promoting literacy and exciting the next generation of those who might work in the industry. Everywhere Arts and Culture organizations and non-profits like us, attempt to rethink Shakespeare and present in a new form that will speak to different audiences. Our new program Shakespeare Meets Hip Hop is a perfect example of a 400-year-old text finding common ground and relevance with contemporary culture to a new young audience.
Shakespeare is still relevant because the themes within them are universally human. They speak the nature of love, ambition, violence and pride. Shakespeare’s work is continually loved through whatever lens it appears through; be it a play, a book or even rapped over a beat from Jay Z’s “The Blueprint” album. Shakespeare will connect with whatever audience it reaches because as it speaks to the human condition, and what it means to be fundamentally flawed humans.
This week throughout the foggy haze of hashtags and promotional content used to promote every theatre or organization’s agenda. The root of it all will always be love for the text and profound respect for the man who wrote them.
McCrum, Robert. “Ten Ways in which Shakespeare Changed the World.” The Guardian. 17 Apr. 2016.