William Shakespeare was born 440 years ago today, on April 23, 1564.
If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be a really old dude driving 20 mph on the freeway and clogging up the Old Country Buffet. But that’s not important.
Back in the Y2K runup, George Will among others picked Shakespeare as Man of the Millenium. Hard to pick just one person, but he’d be a good candidate. His work has furthered the human race as much as anyone’s. His insights into human nature, his stylistic and structural advances in playwriting, and his pure skill in slinging the English language remain unsurpassed.
His work has, for one thing, been the basis of more movies than anyone else, in all likelihood. Personally, I particularly enjoy the Liz and Dick version of Taming of the Shrew.
By the way, anyone wanting to study Shakespeare should DEFINITELY get Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare. Keep it right there while you’re reading. He gave a lot of very useful scene-by-scene explanations of just the kind of historical and literary references that will be obscure and off putting to readers several centuries later.