(Vatican Radio) “To be or not to be”, all the world’s a stage”, and “we have seen better days”. You may not know what plays these phrases come from, but these commonly used quotes are all part of Shakespeare’s vast legacy to the English language.
This year the 400th anniversary of the English playwright’s death is being marked and to celebrate this milestone, Britain’s Globe Theatre has been performing the play “Hamlet” around the world. On Wednesday April 13th the company will be treading the boards in the Vatican in this production which will take place at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in the heart of Rome.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s interview with Professor Emma Smith
So, after 400 years, what makes Shakespeare and his works so relevant today? According to Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University, it is his ability to hold up a mirror to what people are interested in today. “There’s actually been a recent example, the British Library in London has published a very small snippet of Shakespeare’s writing in a play called the book of Thomas Moore, where the character Thomas Moore… urges people to be sympathetic to refugees and to migrants and it’s a really amazing way in Shakespeare suddenly seems to speak to 2016 very directly.”
Shakespeare and religion
Shakespeare’s play are positively littered with scenes of tragedy, comedy, love, revenge, and reconciliation, but what was his take on faith and religion? Emma Smith says that “Shakespeare obviously is writing in an era where questions of faith and religion are absolutely at the top of everyone’s consciousness. Having said that, Shakespeare’s explicit religious engagement is probably a little bit less than that of most of his contemporaries…”
As audiences continue to flock to and quote his plays, and experts continue to dissect his works and his legacy, it is fairly certain that his popularity won’t be waning any time soon.
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