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Book Review: Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions by Barry Edelstein

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Some days I find it entertaining to think that William Shakespeare's influence on the English language was so profound, he has been credited for contributing between 1,500 and 8,000 words to the language. These may not have been new words, but his are often the earliest cited examples of those words appearing in written works.

So let's compare that against the backdrop of today, in a culture of Tweets, texts, instant messages, and e-mails, we use a fraction of the English language. I don't even want to consider how butchered and mangled Shakespeare's plays would be after going through the wringer that is our technologically limited writing today.

As such, when Barry Edelstein's book Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions was released way back in April 2009, I definitely wanted to check it out and see how the Bard might provide inspiration for any number of occasions for which I am out of wit. I was not disappointed. And somehow I bet Shakespeare would be pleased with how his works would be quoted and reused for a huge variety of topics and events.

Edelstein was the perfect person to undertake pulling such a resource together, as he has directed more than half the plays of the Bard at theaters all around New York City and the U.S. He's also taught Shakespeare at the Juliard School, the Graduate Acting Program at NYU, the Public Theater's Shakespeare Lab, and in lectures and master classes around the U.S. and beyond. He definitely knows the Bard more intimately than most of those living today.

Pick a topic, any topic, and Edelstein most likely will have a suggestion for a quote or passage and how you might use it.

For example, are you ever at a loss for words when dealing with a loved one? Choose your desired effect… Othello would say "I Really Love You" as "If it were now to die / 'Twere now to be most happy, for I fear / My soul hath her content so absolute / That not another comfort like to this / Succeeds in unknown fate." – Othello, 2.1.186-89. Basically this boils down to those few magical moments when the stars align and everything is perfect.

Or perhaps you mean so say "I Love You", but, as Edelstein says, it's a bit twisted – "You superb little devil! I'll be damned, but I love you. And when I don't, it will be the end of the world." In Othello's words again, it becomes "Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul / But I do love thee, and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again." – Othello, 3.3.91-93.

Another great section is on apologies… I'm always saying "I'm sorry" for something or another, but rarely say it as graciously as Hamlet… "Give me your pardon, sir. I've done you wrong; / But pardon't as you are a gentleman." – Hamlet, 5.2.163-64.

Everything from family and childhood, lovers and war, mid-life, old-age, and death… It's all here. Even if you don't use the suggestions, it's a learning experience to simply read these quotes and put them into a different perspective.

If you ever have to give toasts or speeches, or are simply at a loss for words, pick up a copy of Barry Edelstein's Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions. It will sit beautifully next to a thesaurus and dictionary as an indispensable reference. Look for it at your favorite bookstore!

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
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