Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare

April 23, 2014

By In Helmolt, H.F., ed. History of the World. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902. Author unknown, but the portrait has several centuries [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Though no one knows for sure, it seems likely that April 23 marks the day William Shakespeare was born in 1564, 450 years ago. Shakespeare, one of the most influential writers of all time, wrote poetry and plays that have influenced the English language in many ways. According to, “In his poems and plays, Shakespeare invented thousands of words, often combining or contorting Latin, French and native roots. His impressive expansion of the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, includes such words as: arch-villain, birthplace, bloodsucking, courtship, dewdrop, downstairs, fanged, heartsore, hunchbacked, leapfrog, misquote, pageantry, radiance, schoolboy, stillborn, watchdog, and zany.”

As I was looking for an appropriate Shakespeare quote for today, I was surprised at how many quotes and phrases I’m familiar with but didn’t always realize came from his writing, such as:

To thine own self be true (the line continues: And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.) 

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed.

What’s past is prologue.

Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

I’ve read very little Shakespeare, unfortunately, but perhaps now is the time to do a little exploring. I have a copy of The Sonnets of William Shakespeare I bought when I was a romantic teenager which I plan to dip into it in the next few weeks, and perhaps I’ll start watching movie versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I love a man who plays with language.

Do you have a favorite poem, quotation or play by Shakespeare? If so, please share.