April 26-William Shakespeare was baptized on this day in 1564. He was the most
important and influential writer, ever, period. You quote Shakespeare when you say
something is Greek to you...recall your salad days...or take action more in sorrow than in
anger. To say someone is tongue-tied or that something has vanished into thin air is to
quote him...ditto when you're a "tower of strength" or "in a pickle." You recall
Shakespeare when you can't sleep a wink or make a virtue of necessity...when you knit
your brows...insist on fair play or stand on ceremony...when you play fast and loose...or
when you're hoodwinked.
You owe a debt to Shakespeare when you say "too much of a good thing" or refer to a
"fool's paradise." He was the first to say "when all is said and done" and that it was high
time...the first to say something put one in stitches...and the first to say something had
seen better days. "Foul play" and "flesh and blood" come from Shakespeare...and so
does "one fell swoop."
To give the devil his due is to quote Shakespeare...who was also the first to write the
phrase "good riddance" and the first to refer to someone being sent packing. "Rhyme or
reason" is his...so are "laughing stock" and "eyesore." Many of these phrases have
become so common in English that they have entered OTHER languages. Like we
said...the most important and influential writer, ever, period.
I still find myself, whenever I like, stepping back into Shakespeare. Whenever I like, I pull him to
me. He wrote it for me. "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my
outcast state…." Of course he wrote it for me; that is a condition of the black woman…. Nobody
else understands it, but I know that William Shakespeare was a black woman. That is the role of art
in life.—Maya Angelou; speech, 1985 (Sonnet 29)
09/14/12 of 4-26-99