Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That if I then had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
[The Tempest, 3:2]
Can we just take a moment. William Shakespeare wrote these words more than four hundred years ago when he was a poor playwright living in one of the roughest quarters of London; a city plagued by poverty, disease and prejudice. Within the course of his career, his beloved son Hamnet died, he spent long periods of time separated from his wife and children, his contemporary Kit Marlowe was [allegedly] assassinated before he reached middle age, and his business was threatened by plague, paganism and public disorder. Not only did Shakespeare continue to earn a living from writing plays for a demanding Elizabethan audience he wrote genuinely beautiful plays and sonnets. There are still those who believe that he is not the true author of his own work, simply because they can not believe that a lowly boy from a farming background could have written with the sincerity and grace that he did. Perhaps, walking through the busiest and poorest quarters of London today, you can understand their view point. But one only has to sit on South bank outside Shakespeare’s own theatre to shake all doubt from your mind. Shakespeare’s words are still the most powerful that Britain has to offer – a point that was proved wonderfully by their inclusion in both the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies within the last few weeks. Nice one, Will. I hope that Kit buys you a drink, wherever you both may be.