By Megan Driscoll
Happy Birthday to Thee
Shakespeare is one of the most beloved - and prolific - authors of all time. Each year on the bard's birthday, English-speaking fans worldwide show their affection by speaking in his unique version of middle English. Although no one is certain of Shakespeare's actual birth date, the consensus in the scholarly community is that it was most likely April 23, 1564. So April 23rd has been designated 'Talk Like Shakespeare Day.'
Chicago's Shakespeare Theater takes credit for launching the official day, which caught on in 2009 when mayor Richard Daley issued a citywide proclamation exhorting Chicagoans to 'screw their courage to the sticking place and celebrate Shakespeare by vocal acclamation of his words.' And in 2010 Mayor Daley reminded us that the bard is credited with contributing over 1,700 words and phrases to the English language, including such common terms as 'majestic,' 'circumstantial' and 'dead as a doornail.'
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'Tis a Celebration, Sirrah
Of course, many people may struggle to incorporate such terms as 'prithee' and 'fie!' into their daily parlance. But despair not! The Chicago Shakespeare Theater has launched TalkLikeShakespeare.org, a site dedicated to the annual celebration that offers plenty of tips and tricks. Here's a sample:
- Try adding 'eth' to the ends of words: He walketh, she runneth, I bloggeth.
- Forget 'it,' just add the letter 't': 'Tis, t'will, to't.
- Use 'thou' or 'thee' instead of 'you' and 'ye' instead of 'y'all.'
- Emphasize your points with phrases like 'methinks,' 'mayhaps' and 'wherefore.'
- Call women 'mistress,' men 'sirrah' and all your friends 'cousin.'
Need some ideas for the workplace? The site also provides usable quotes directly from Shakespeare's works, including 'I follow him to serve my turn upon him' from Othello and 'To business that we love we rise betime, / And go to't with delight' from Antony and Cleopatra.
Teachers and students may also be interested in the site's ideas for Shakespeare-related classroom activities. Suggestions include slinging Shakespearean insults (great for light-hearted conflict resolution), walking in iambic pentameter and playing the popular balderdash dictionary game with only Shakespearean words.
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