Remembering beloved bard

Published 10:11 am Thursday, April 14, 2016

To satirize, or not to satirize. That is the question.

April 23, 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of playwright, poet, actor William Shakespeare, generally regarded as the greatest writer in the history of the English language. (“Press two for Spanish.”)

Perhaps you first came to appreciate Shakespeare via a sophomore English lecture or a dignified live performance of one of his plays.

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Or maybe, like me, you fell in love with his works via the episode of “Gilligan’s Island” in which movie producer Harold Hecuba (Phil Silvers) wound up starring in a one-man musical of “Hamlet.” Who can forget Silvers singing, “Hamlet, Hamlet, do be a lamblet…” in drag as Ophelia?

(For those of us who watched the episode multiple times, I can only say, “What’s in a name? That which we call a couch potato by any other name would smell as pungent…”)

Shakespeare coined an astounding number of words or phrases we still use today, including “catch a cold,” “break the ice,” “foregone conclusion,” “good riddance,” “uncomfortable” and “manager.” Of course there were some misfires; you don’t often hear anyone gushing, “Oooo, I’ve just been shuffling off this mortal coil to meet you!”

Shakespeare has inspired countless other writers and performers over the centuries. Surely you remember Merle Haggard’s anthem “You’re Walkin’ On The Forsoothin’ Side of Me”?

Shakespeare’s works are among those things that are really good for us but that we stubbornly resist. Perhaps a dinner theater should advertise, “Come for the broccoli and flossing, but stay for the soliloquies.”

Teachers fight an uphill battle getting students to pay attention to Shakespeare. It’s a shame. Yes, sometimes the archaic language and stilted proclamations can make the works tedious, but the man had so much to say about the human condition. Surely the students find star-crossed lovers relevant. Granted, some of the students have no frame of reference for the unbridled AMBITION of Macbeth. (“A little help, please? The Cool Ranch Doritos are waaaaay down on the other end of the sofa.”)

Scholars are fascinated by the various “lost years” gaps in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s location and activities. I tend to think he was out hitchhiking and trying to find himself. (“By the hoisting of my thumbs, something 18-wheeled this way comes.”)

Don’t you wish we could ask the Bard of Avon if he would have done anything differently if he had known his works would endure for four centuries? (“Emojis! More sonnets with emojis! Replace Hamlet’s father’s ghost with Hamlet’s father’s ZOMBIE. And stop worrying so much about competing with the Bard of Maybelline and the Bard of Mary Kay.”)

We are so fortunate that Shakespeare isn’t writing his works today. Timeless truths would be downgraded to TelePrompter dialogue such as “If you like your apothecary, you can keep your apothecary.” Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” would forego a pound of flesh for a pound of certified-organic kale. Hamlet’s first reaction when looking at Yorick’s skull would be to snap, “Somebody get the CSI team.” Romeo, coming upon an apparently deceased Juliet, would walk away with a quip of “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

My word limit approaches. Parting is such sweet sorrow. Remember: The evil that men do lives after them; the stuff they throw together to beat a deadline oft gets passed over for “Dear Abby.”



Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”