William Shakespeare (1564-1616) takes up 88 pages in my edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotation (the thirteenth edition, 1955). For comparison's sake, the Bible takes up only 46 pages (with one quotation from the Wycliffe Translation, 1384, and the rest from the King James, or Authorized, Version, 1611). In a recent evening of browsing through Bartlett's, the only "category" I could find which was longer than Shakespeare's was the Index, at 541 pages.
For those preparing to visit one of the various events listed on Shakespeare400chicago.com and for those of you planning your own observances of the 400th anniversary of the writer's death, I have collected a series of quotations from some of his more famous plays. On Thursdays between now and the 400th anniversary of his death (which some sources consider also as his birthday), I'll post these collections with some of my own observations.
Let me add here that I don't consider any of Shakespeare among my Sustaining Books -- in other words, I don't turn to these works to Help and Comfort in Great Tightness (as A.A. Milne defined the term). However, even if you're not a great or frequent reader of Shakespeare, I think you'll find something to enjoy with me here. His influence on the language is undeniable and, therefore, admirable.
As for that influence, a note in the Index of my Bartlett's explains why Shakespeare is one of a select few writers with an asterisk beside his name: "The asterisk (*) preceding a name indicates that quotations from that author included as Notes" (i.e., to other quotations) "are so numerous that the editors consider it impracticable to give the numbers of all the pages where they occur."
The quotations will range widely in three categories:
-- Things that should be familiar to any educated speaker of English;
-- Things that aren't necessarily well known as Shakespeare, yet are familiar; and
-- Things that simply strike me as something marvelous that should be more familiar.
So happy reading and happy quoting! I hope you'll find surprises ahead along with old friends.
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