We are such stuff as dreams

Today is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on the 23rd April 1616 (it is also the 452nd anniversary of his birth). William Shakespeare is considered the greatest of all writers in the English language. He wrote 37 plays that created some of literatures’ most famous characters. He introduced hundreds of words into English that helped define our language.

In Sydney Shakespeare is honoured with a bronze memorial statue in Shakespeare Place in front of the Mitchell Library. It is in between lanes leading on to the Cahill Expressway. Shakespeare is kept company there by a troupe of his most enduring characters: Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Portia and Falstaff.

The erection of a statue to Shakespeare was championed by Henry Gullet, President of the Shakespeare Society of NSW. Gullet died in 1914 but his family continued his project. The statue was created by Sculptor Sir Edgar Bertram Mackennal (1863-1931), one of Australia’s best and most successful sculptors, and unveiled in 1926. Working in Europe, Mackennal had created many private works and public monuments. King George V was his patron and he was the only Australian to be granted membership of the Royal Academy (in London).

The plinth of the statue is inscribed with a long passage from The Tempest. It is thought that Shakespeare wrote The Tempest as a farewell to his audience before he retired to Stratford-on-Avon where he had been born. The most apt line is:

We are such stuff as dreams are made on:
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
The Tempest (Act IV, Scene 1)

Over the years, like every writer good or bad, I have dipped into Shakespeare for inspiration or have mined his works to support my ideas. Without him we would have not had the depth of literature and culture that we have. Here are some of my posts that star Shakespeare:

I wrote a post on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday—on the difference between a soliloquy and a monologue: To be or not to be a soliloquy

I have written about the importance of business reputation based on quotations from Shakespeare’s Othello.

Shakespeare often pioneered or used unusual words that we find in current English: flibbertigibbet, petard, swashbuckler, hobgoblin, and bombast are some good examples.

We should remember the anniversary of the death of Shakespeare for many of our dreams are built on the images that he created for us.