Today marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare, one of, if not the most, famous writer in Elizabethan England. Shakespeare died on April 23rd, 1616 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, the same town in which he was born, coincidentally on April 23rd, 1564 . The cause of his death remains a mystery; however, to die at age 52 in the 17th century was much longer than the average life span, which was about 35 years old. He is currently buried in Holy Trinity Church, the same church in which he was baptized.
The Bard has been called the “Soule of the Age! The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage!” by his contemporary, Ben Jonson in Shakespeare’s first printed foglio of his collected works, known as Shakespeare’s First Foglio. It is no secret that Shakespeare is incredibly well-known and has had an incredible impact on literature and life today. Most people have had to read at least one of his plays in high school, whether it have been Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or Macbeth. He is the writer of 154 sonnets and 37 plays, which have influenced countless writers during his life and since his death.
In fact, in Fordham University Press’s Spring 2016 Catalog alone, we have published two different works that deal with Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and his world: Shakespeare as a Way of Life: Skeptical Practice and the Politics of Weakness by James Kuzner and This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in
Early Modern Literature edited by Marcie Frank, Jonathan Goldberg, and Karen Newman.
Shakespeare as a Way of Life shows how reading Shakespeare helps us to live with epistemological weakness and even to practice this weakness, to make it a way of life. In a series of close readings, Kuzner shows how Hamlet, Lucrece, Othello, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and Timon of Athens, impel us to grapple with basic uncertainties: how we can be free, whether the world is abundant, whether we have met the demands of love and social life.
The essays in This Distracted Globe investigate the material stuff of the world in Spenser, Cary, and Marlowe; the sociable bonds of authorship, sexuality, and sovereignty in Shakespeare and others; and the universal status of spirit, gender, and empire in the worlds of Vaughan, Donne, and the dastan (tale) of Chouboli, a Rajasthani princess. Together, these essays make the case that to address what it takes to create a world in the early modern period requires the kinds of thinking exemplified by theory.
Still 400 years later, scholars, professors, students, and society in general are still interested in stepping into Shakespeare’s world and being captured by the magic of his plays and the beauty of his poetry and prose. We even use his language in our daily speech, being that Shakespeare coined the phrases “the green-eyed monster,” “gossip” and “heart of gold,” among others.
It is quite probable that the mark that Shakespeare has left on our world will never be erased, for after the Bard is gone, his writings live on. If you wish to read more about William Shakespeare and Elizabethan England, take a look at Fordham Press’ Renaissance Studies titles. Happy reading, and remember, all the world’s a stage!