Shakespeare, Dickens, Wren, Austen, Hardy, Turner: in praise of … the English

Eileen Battersby marks St George’s Day with a kaleidoscopic celebration of our noisy neighbour’s contribution to world culture

Eileen Battersby

Shakespeare, Dickens, Wren, AustenToday is believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday, or so 18th-century biographers decided as his baptism took place on April 26th. April 23rd is most certainly the date upon which he died in 1616, aged 52, having produced a body of work which almost single-handedly defines literature.
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Any nation, rampaging imperialism aside, which can claim William Shakespeare is entitled to feel rather self-satisfied. By dying on his birthday he confirmed an innate flair for exits as well as entrances. Shakespeare was the complete showman: he knew about stagecraft, made clever use of historical sources, knew the art of spinning a great yarn and how to entertain an audience and could challenge the emotional range of all actors (and continues to do). Shakespeare remains the test of any serious actor.
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His feel for imagery is second to none. Shakespeare was a poet blessed with theatrical flair and a rare understanding of the social hierarchy and most particularly he was a psychologist, attuned to the vagaries of human nature. As if that was not enough to be celebrating, today is also St George’s Day. Ironically it is not a public holiday in England. In fact St George, depicted through the ages on horseback slaying a dragon, probably never even saw one. Many countries acknowledge a St George. Yet he is England’s national saint.

Read the complete article
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A final reminder that on this Thursday, April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters.

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