Friday 20 April 2018

The stories behind a master storyteller

Ciaran Byrne
Ciaran Byrne

'He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again'

Why mark the occasion of someone's death 400 years ago? Well, William Shakespeare wasn't just someone; he was a unique writer and storyteller, whose impact on storytelling globally and the way we all communicate is incalculable.

His astonishing body of work transcends borders; it's impossible to label Shakespeare as an 'English' writer when his influence on writers and writing worldwide, over four centuries, has been so absolute.

In the UK, Shakespeare400, a consortium of leading cultural, creative and educational organisations, coordinated by King's College London, has come together to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616.

Through a series of public performances, programmes, exhibitions and creative activities in London and beyond, partners will celebrate the legacy of Shakespeare during the quatercentenary year.

In this special magazine, the Irish Independent marks the occasion with a supplement that explores who Shakespeare really was, critical assessments of his work by academics and English teachers, and a look at his impact on our own culture and literature.

We are pleased to have the special input of Professor Michael Dobson, the Director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon. He discusses, on these pages, the relevance of Shakespeare to Irish people in general, and why his work stands the test of time.

We are also delighted to have a contribution from Professor Anthony Roche of the UCD School of English who analyses Shakespeare's influence on Irish writers. A Shakespeare devotee, Prof Roche has travelled to England for recent Shakespeare400 events.

The magazine is an opportunity to learn a little more about the writer and his extraordinary way with words. As John Meagher shows us, it's remarkable just how many of the phrases we use unthinkingly were first coined by The Bard.

If you've ever told a 'knock knock' joke or said "fair play", or if you've texted that "the game is up" or noted that a friend has a "heart of gold", you're using phrases first seen in plays written by Shakespeare.

Oh, as school students across Ireland can attest, he also happened to write some of the greatest drama the world has ever known. Enjoy.

Ciarán Byrne


Irish Independent

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