cmatson@stanford.edu's blog

It's (more or less) the birthday of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Today is the date generally agreed to be the birthday of English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. We don't have the exact date he was born but we do know he was baptized on April 26, so tradition places his birth on April 23. He died on an April 23 as well (in 1616).

Shakespeare's work includes some 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. Several of his plays -- including Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello -- are considered among the finest in the English language.

Shakespeare's profound influence has not been limited to the realms literature and theater. According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography:

From small delights like Juliet's Nurse, or Bottom the Weaver, or the Gravedigger, to such incomparable creations as Falstaff, King Lear, and Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare has enlarged our world by imitating it. It should not surprise us, therefore, that personalities as vivid as these have gone on, as it were, to lives of their own outside the dramatic settings in which they first thought and spoke and moved. In opera alone there are enough different renderings of characters and scenes from Shakespeare's plays to assure that the devotee of Charles-François Gounod or Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner or Benjamin Britten, could attend a different performance every evening for six months and never see the same work twice. Which is not to suggest, of course, that the composers of other musical forms have been remiss: Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Jean Sibelius, Sergey Prokofiev, and Aaron Copland are but a few of the major figures who have given us songs, tone poems, ballets, symphonic scores, or other compositions based on Shakespeare. Cole Porter might well have been addressing his fellow composers when he punctuated Kiss Me Kate with the advice to "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

Certainly the painters have never needed such reminders. Artists of the stature of George Romney, William Blake, Henry Fuseli, Eugene Delacroix, John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti have drawn inspiration from Shakespeare's dramatis personae; and, thanks to such impresarios as the eighteenth-century dealer John Boydell, the rendering of scenes from Shakespeare has long been a significant subgenre of pictorial art. Illustrators of Shakespeare editions have often been notable figures in their own right: George Cruikshank, Arthur Rackham, Rockwell Kent, and Salvador Dali.

And of course there are the numerous film and television versions and adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, including Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood; Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books; and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet.

We have lots and lots of material by and about William Shakespeare available here in Green Library.


Things that Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists' Books / Cosas que sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneo

Es Verdad Composite

Be sure to check out the new exhibition opening this Thursday, April 19, on the second floor of Green Library's Bing Wing.

From the exhibition website:

The Stanford University Libraries' Department of Special Collections presents an exhibition of contemporary calligraphic artists' books featuring poetry by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca, drawings by Manuel Neri, calligraphy by Thomas Ingmire, and bindings by Daniel Kelm. Things that Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists' Books / Cosas que sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneos will open Thursday, April 19, in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda on the second floor of the Bing Wing of Green Library, Stanford University. The exhibition is free and open to the public.


Madame Bovary published on this date in 1857

Gustave Flaubert

It was on this date in 1857 that Madame Bovary was published. A depiction of Emma Bovary's unsatisfying existence with her country doctor husband and of her longing for the kind of life and love she has read about in books, Gustave Flaubert's first novel became a bestseller upon its publication due to its notoriety. Flaubert had been put on trial by public prosecutors for the book's alleged obscenity. (He was acquitted.)

Flaubert is known for taking great pains to achieve "le mot juste"—the precise word or turn of phrase. Madame Bovary includes a line that "human speech is like a cracked tin kettle, on which we hammer out tunes to make bears dance when we long to move the stars."


A haiku and a limerick for National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month book display in Green East

April poetry
Come see our new book display
Take some poems home

April's a good month for some poetry
We have a display you should know-etry
Take a look at our table
Check out books -- you are able!
Then bask in the poetic glow-etry


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