Friday, 23 April 2010
April 23rd – St George’s Day
St George is the patron saint of England. He is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Russia as well as a host of cities and the island of Gozo and a number of professions, organisations and disease sufferers. Spread a bit thinly, isn't he? He is surrounded by myths and legends but little is known of him for certain.
April 23rd is also celebrated as William Shakespeare's birthday (Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you . . . ) though there is no exact record of his birth. It is the date of his death, too, though there were some intervening years – 52 to be exact – in which he wrote 10 historical plays, 12 tragedies, 16 comedies, 154 sonnets and 5 poems. The authorship of some of these works has been questioned many times.
Most English-speaking people can probably quote Shakespeare, sometimes without realising they are doing so. When does a quotation become a cliché?
'All the world's a stage.'
'Neither a borrower nor a lender be.'
'Brevity is the soul of wit.'
'Cowards die many times before their death.'
'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.'
These words slip so easily from our lips, so wise, so succinct. Try rephrasing them and realise afresh the gift for language with which William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, was blessed.