Art of Shakespeare
Art of Shakespeare

You can love Shakespeare

I understand that one of the dead giveaways of being really old and out of it is to quote Shakespeare.


It is okay not to be on X and you can be forgiven for not having a Facebook account and not being on Instagram. People will find an excuse for you even if you claim not to be able to cope with computers.

You will be taken as one of the underprivileged and someone might even find an NGO for you that might be able to deal with your situation. But if you should make the mistake and let out of your mouth, a quotation that you would have the effrontery to actually attribute to a certain William Shakespeare, then you would deserve the total disdain of the sophisticates of the world.

Apparently, on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the most excruciatingly embarrassing and annoying thing, quoting Shakespeare would register eleven on the scale. And I am getting this from a 30-something young man who knows all there is to know about life, the universe and is doing very well at his chosen profession.

This young man tells me that not only does Shakespeare no longer feature in any part of modern life, only “deliberately backward” people still refer to Shakespeare in their language.

This young man purports to speak two Ghanaian languages but not good enough for anyone to suggest he had mastered the language. His English is like what you hear around from many young people.

I am not quite sure when or why William Shakespeare fell out of favour so dramatically as to have become offensive to some. I know it is possible these days to go to school and get credit in English at WASSCE and never make the acquaintance of a certain William Shakespeare. 


I have thought about mounting a campaign to make young people realise that once you are speaking English, you cannot avoid Shakespeare. You would be quoting Shakespeare in what you take to be your everyday English without knowing it.

But then, I have to ask myself, of all the things that really upset me in this country, would the rejection or denial of Shakespeare register highly on my scale, enough to launch and sustain a campaign?

I shall firmly resist the temptation to suggest that we have seen better days, nor state the obvious that we are in poor condition. Would it be worthwhile to point out that “everyday phrases and sayings such as “we have seen better days”, “we are in poor condition”, “not slept a wink”, “made of sterner stuff” are all Shakespeare sayings.

Since I have started on the subject, I might just continue and really annoy all the modern sophisticates today and just produce here some of my favourite Shakespearean quotes. I won’t even bother to attach the plays or sonnets or wherever they were first used by the man.

If I am going to annoy people, I suppose I might just as well go the whole hog. Do I have a favourite Shakespeare quote? I have lots. Every time I find myself trying to find an excuse or something or someone to blame, I remember:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Every day I find a reason to recall this one and reassure myself there is something useful in everything and every situation:

“Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything?”

“How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees? Now that I am in this stage of my life, I find that this one comes to my mind quite often: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”  

It might be too late for any of this to refer to me but I can still wonder about it all and try to fix all the people I have known into the different categories of greatness. “Be not afraid of greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”

Here is one I used to bring up quite often in my estimation of people in authority:

“But man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assur'd—
His glassy essence—like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.”

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune, omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat.

And we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.” “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”


But maybe the antipathy to Shakespeare comes from the wrong impression that a quotation is necessarily a long passage, but the truth is most of the time, all it takes is a few pithy words, a phrase, a sentence and you have a Shakespeare saying.


I offer these few and leave you to judge if Shakespeare is of no relevance to modern day.
"We know what we are, but know not what we may be."
"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt."
“Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.” ... 
“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” ... 
“The earth has music for those who listen” 
“All that glitters is not gold”, 
“Wear my heart upon my sleeve”, 
“There’s a method in my madness”

By the way, the following are all Shakespeare, these are words and phrases he created: Vanish into thin air, wild goose chase, cold-blooded, break the ice, and yes, fashionable  
This is probably wicked, but I can’t resist this. My 30-something young man will recognise this, the word “Swagger” is from Shakespeare.

And we end today’s piece with this quote from William Shakespeare: “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.”


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