This story begins with a young man, quite an ordinary, unremarkable man. And it’s all true.
Brought up in a large family, the eldest of five.
The most interesting thing about him is that his father has an interest in local politics.
He grew up in the same town as me – a small market town and again quite unremarkable.
Here it is – this is where he spent all of his early years.
Not much else to do growing up here.
He even went to the same school as me …… although not in the same year.
Unlike me, he crawled into school like a snail, reluctantly carrying his satchel which weighed him down – And he left with no qualifications.
Whilst still a teenager, he pursued a woman almost ten years older than him until she caught him. Quite literally.
But there was good reason. His wife was carrying his first child and this was very much the shotgun wedding.
The marriage had been rushed forward and there were rumours he’d actually proposed to another woman around the same time.
So six months after he exchanged rings with his wife, along comes Susanna.
No qualifications, married reluctantly to a woman much older than him and now a father. Life wasn’t easy.
He scraped by as a farm hand, often surviving on the charity of his in-laws farm a few miles away. How embarrassing.
Stone broke, so what do you do. You have two more children over the next three years.
And it wasn’t just hard for him. His Father is declared bankrupt and narrowly avoids a prison term.
It’s around now that he fell in with the wrong crowd.
And when I mean the wrong crowd, we’re not just talking about shoplifting and petty thefts. A few years later this lot were caught attempting to bomb the capital.
Our man was eventually caught stealing from one of the big houses in the area,
It was around this time he went missing. Nobody had seen him for about a decade, enough time for the heat to have died down.
What happened during this time is still a mystery. Some say he hid out in Lancashire, others say he went abroad.
But, Just like Dick Whittington, he turns up in London as a bit part actor – as far away from the West End as you could imagine.
He banded together with some friends and they created their own theatre company.
Performing in a theatre which backed onto a street full of brothels.
A good start so far isn’t it – but this is where he started to invent.
Being a young man and jobbing actor near the pubs and bordellos of London, he can seriously lay claim to having invented addiction in his evenings, followed by arousal and, finally, puking by the end of the night.
But he did invent some real things – the Blanket - imagine bedtime without one.
Most people have eyes, and half the population have balls – but this man put them together and invented Eyeballs,
And he even invented the alligator – imagine how you’d say see you later without them?
These creations have led him to developing one of Britain’s biggest industries, worth a cool £1bn a year.
That’s the same amount as the snow damage caused to the UK in December
The equivilant to the “grey” economy in Wales, or over 400 Valley Parade Stadia.
His inventions have inspired thousands of others including writers, dramatists, composers and choreographers.
Here are just some of the people he inspired –some you might not want to have him inspired but inspire them he did.
Yet he’s commonly described as a crow, a fraud, a plagiarist, an upstart
Often seen as irrelevant, inaccessible boring and stayed. There was even a pamphlet questioning his sexuality.
Some people claim his work was never created by him.
The person is William Shakespeare, possibly the most influential person in the Western World.
The terrorists were part of the gunpowder plot and he didn’t abandon his family, making regular trips back from the capital.
But why this subject –I wanted you to take a fresh look at him and his achievement.
We often get lost in the language and forget he was a real man.
He brought common language to the arts – or as he called them, household words.
It is not the plays, but the words, the rhythm, the vocabulary and emotion. It’s not always easy but it is almost 500 years old.
Take Anthony and Cleopatra – two of the great leaders – yet Shakespeare makes them talk like an old married couple.
And look at his start in life – he wasn’t the high achiever and while he wasn’t the poorest in society, it was still a meteoric rise.
Take a fresh look at the young people in your life and see how you can inspire them to achieve greatness.
A recent survey in Wakefield found it wasn’t attitude and laziness of teenagers that created youth unemployment, but the stifling of creativity by parents, friends and relatives.
And for those who ask why it’s relevant today, in Bradford, I can only thank the RSC.
His Birthday is celebrated on the nearest Saturday to the 23rd of April – only this year, due to commercial reasons, they’ve shifted it to the 30th.
And the Rosemary? The herb of remembrance mentioned in Hamlet by Ophelia.
To finish, some other inventions of Shakespeare’s we couldn’t do without.
What would Science Fiction be like without Wormholes – time travel from the 15th century.
What would Britain’s Got Talent be like without Buzzers? Breakfast without Skimm’d Milk Or Mary Poppins without the Chimney Pot.
Even my own Blog, Set the World at Nought, is inspired by Shakespeare, although he stole the line from a prayer by St Thomas More.
So remember to wear your sprig of rosemary, like the townsfolk of Stratford will be, on Saturday.