Depending on whose conventional wisdom you’re listening to, William Shakespeare either died about four hundred years ago this month or never existed. No matter which way you look at it, boy did he love ghosts and philandering kings. Though every theater student within shouting distance (they’re always there) will tell you that Shakespeare is a lifestyle, be careful which lessons you lift from the Bard - before you know it, you’ll be “pursued by a bear” offstage and never heard from again.
Here’s our takeaways from the Bard’s catalog.
Ghosts are real and very chill.
If your dad appears to you in the middle of the field as a ghost, definitely listen to him! You are definitely not crazy, he’s got great advice, and if you’re lucky he’ll glaze over a ton of exposition and set up your mission through the rest of the play. Oh, so we’re killing the king of a European country? Cool! Thanks, Ghost Dad!
Put a Post-It on the head of one twin or something.
You know it’s a Shakespearean comedy if everyone is yelling and there’s some kind of twin-related snafu. Not incredibly original, but a good hint if there’s twins in your life that have the energy and lack of career, friendship and surplus of time to dedicate exclusively to prankery. You know, like child actors.
Everything will work out or everyone will die and there is no middle ground.
This is also my working philosophy with my romantic life. Take stock of your life - all things considered, would you declare it a tragedy or a comedy? If it’s a comedy, you’re all good. If tragedy, revise your will and leave everything to Kelsey Grammer because everyone you care about is going to die. And then you.
You can just make words up as long as you keep reminding people you’re a genius.
When Shakespeare couldn’t think of the right word for an insult, he’d just make one up. On sitcoms, this is a tool often used to indicate that a character isn’t very smart or doesn’t ‘know words too good,’ but when Shakespeare or George W. Bush does it, it’s added to the dictionary. Let’s try it, shall we? Stop bibbling, you trampant boardtable! Nope, better when he does it.
Women are like, totally hysterical.
No matter what genre you’re working with, Shakespeare heartily abides to the notion that bitches be crazy, and if they’re not crazy, they’re probably going to die soon. Take Lady Macbeth or Ophelia in Hamlet, or Volumnia for Coriolanus, or any woman with more than one line being used to further the plot.
If you can give a decent speech you’ll probably be fine.
If you can spin a decent yarn in a Shakespeare play, chances are you’ll at least make it until the last act. If you’re in the throes of a tragedy you’ve got to be a real Horatio to go the distance and make it past the death of the protagonist. Party on.
Don’t bother writing something unless it can be remixed a million stupid different ways.
What’s the real key to Shakespeare’s success? Adaptability. If you can write the source material for what will eventually be She’s the Man or The Lion King or several of Baz Luhrmann’s underwhelming titles, you’re set for life, baby. That is, if you live that long. Or if you ever existed in the first place. Dang, Shakespeare, you are slippery.