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400 years after the Bard's death, here are dozen Shakespearean rules for living

By Tony Mochama | April 23rd 2016
SHAKESPEARE April 23, 2016 -- Commemorations worldwide are taking place this year to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent playwright. From around 1590 to 1613 he produced some 37 plays, which continue to be performed around the globe to this day. He is believed to have been born on April 23, 1564, and died on his 52nd birthday. Graphic shows brief timeline of Shakespeare’s life and playwriting career.

Date - April 23, 1616. Place – Stratford-On-Avon, Person - William Shakespeare.

Exactly 400 years ago on this date, three days short of his fifty-second birthday at the Stratford-On-Avon, aptly-named for a poet, playwright and the greatest word bard of all time, William Shakespeare passed on.

Behind him he left 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two long poems that, collectively, would make him as Ben Johnson (the classical poet, not the black British runner) would prologue in Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio’ – “a great man, not of one age, but for all time.”

Shakespeare has variously been named one of the most famous people in history, alongside Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad, Emperor Napoleon, US presidents Abe Lincoln and George Washington, the dark dictator Adolf Hitler, Aristotle the Greek philosopher, the ancient global conqueror called Alexander the Great and Thomas Jefferson.

In short, the only writer/artist in this earth-moving list is William Shakespeare. One of the things that make the Bard of Avon so immortally memorable are the many pithy sayings in his plays. I chose 12 ‘Shakespeare sayings’ that any Kenyan can understand and live by.

1. Love is blind

When love happens upon a person, dopamine and other chemicals mess around with the human brain. One is literally intoxicated, as if on drugs. This subjectivity may blind one to deep flaws in the beloved. This is why it is important to pay heed, and get the all clear from your mother, before rushing into matrimony blindly. Lest you end up unhappily as a couple – like Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.

2. To Thine Own Self, Be True

All wisdom begins with self realisation.

You may deceive the world, but do not lie to yourself.

3. Love all, trust few, do wrong to none

We are all in this world together, struggling to get by or to succeed. Approach others with sympathy, warmth, empathy, compassion. But don’t be too trusting of everybody. There are people out to poison one, metaphorically, like the Queen Gertrude in ‘Hamlet’ or stab one in the back, like Brutus in ‘Julius Caesar.’

4. What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

The world is full of meaningless labels and titles! Being bestowed, for better or worse, with one of these does not change one’s intrinsic value. For example, there has been hullabaloo in the social media asking why shirt sponsors of our heroic rugby team Kenya Airways ‘allowed’ them to land in JKIA on Qatar Airways. One could argue that the mysterious ‘Q’ in ‘KQ’ has always stood for ‘Qatar.’

5. We are such stuff as dreams are made of

We could interpret this sweet sentence of Shakespeare in so many ways – from the existential, our lives being but brief dreams between two long sleeps; to the fact that our lives become the sum total of our dreams.

6. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing

Shakespeare may not have known it, but he would have recognised the veracity of this saying four hundred years hence. One just has to go to the inter-connected world of the Internet and see the Instagrams, #hashtags, Kenyans on Twitter, the sound and the fury, the amusing, ephemeral and insignificance of it all.

7. Penny wise, pound foolish

There are people who are excellent at managing minor things, but disasters on the Big Picture canvas. Look at Kenya’s MCAs for example. Good at ward level politics, but greedy wastrels in the world, like when they go as a horde to Singapore, ostensibly to study how the sewer systems work in Asia; or in Bungoma where money is squandered in the sprucing up of farm wheelbarrows. Budgets for humans like MCAs should be slashed to penny level, where their stupidity can be easily accommodated.

8. Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend

Many people can testify to this. It is the 23 of the month, and a friend or relative asks for some money to tide them through till end month. ‘Just five thousand bob.’ By May 1, they are not picking up your calls. There goes Bob with your buddy-ship! And your five thousand bob. You two won’t be having Budweisers together any time soon as you speak about the chances of Leicester FC ‘taking this thing.’

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