Thursday, 21 March 2013


William Shakespeare, The Bard of Avon, Bardolatry
Don't make fun of his squiffy eye - it's blasphemous


Noun. E20.
[from BARD noun + -O- +LATRY]

Excessive admiration of a poet, spec. of Shakespeare, 'the Bard of Avon'.

I love Shakespeare, but I also love dictionaries and semantics. This leaves me deeply conflicted over bardolatry. Yes, by definition, excessive anything is too much, otherwise it wouldn't be excessive. But excessive admiration? For Shakespeare? Oh please. Could there ever be such a thing?

You see, there is a fashion for knocking Shakespeare. In school, his plays are reviled as being interminably boring and impenetrably difficult to understand. Otherwise completely literate students list their assigned texts as:

"... Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, A Separate Peace ... and ... urgh! ... Macbeth!" 

There has also been a fashion for many years of questioning Shakespeare's authorship and authenticity. Just mention Shakespeare at a party and some irrepressible know-it-all is bound to chime:

"Oh, but you do you know that Shakespeare didn't really write any of that, don't you?"

Quite. And don't even think about mentioning the moon landings.

Regarding Shakespeare's schoolyard rep, this is largely down to just how badly Shakespeare is often taught in school. I remember reading Macbeth as a class, each student sitting at their desk, reading their part with all the conviction and energy of a sedated sloth. It's forgotten, though, that these works are plays, written for the stage, where flesh and blood actors bring the words and characters to life in front of you. While studying the texts is undoubtedly rewarding, nothing can compare to seeing them as Shakespeare intended when he penned them some 400 years ago.

Yes that's right, moon-landing denier: When he penned them. I'm not anti-polemic, and certainly not of the opinion that Shakespeare is above question. However, it is supremely irritating when people echo this rather tired conspiracy just because it seems fashionable or erudite to do so. The so-called evidence for questioning Shakepeare's authorship is mind-numbingly flimsy, and revolves largely around mere speculation with more than a dash of elitism thrown in. After all, to cite an oft quoted objection: How could someone from Stratford, a humble agricultural town, have written such works of transcendent genius? Pff.

Shakepeare's acclaimed reputation is fully deserved. His influence on the English language, on devices such as plot and structure, on our vocabulary and on subsequent works of literature is unparalleled. It seems more than a little unfair that, along with all the other knocks Shakespeare gets, he's also connected to the rather unflattering noun of bardolatry. It certainly may be possible to be a bardolater somehow (perhaps by praying to Shakespeare, or refusing to speak but in Shakespearean English, or even sleeping with an effigy of the Great Bard in your bed every night). However, recognising and crediting him for what he did definitely does not qualify. Now please all stand ...

*All Hail Our Blessed Bard*


  1. Sleeping with an effigy of the Great Bard in your bed every night? ha ha ha ha ha!
    You know that very soon someone is going to discover your blog and make a book out of it? This is not just a compliment, I mean it. The funny version of the dictionary or something like that.

    I'll tell you what happens with Shakespeare in Greece. His name is pronounced "sexpeer", which in Greek means "sex and fire". So there will always be someone who will make a stupid pun no matter how trite it may be.

    p.s: I know you are a man and you probably don't opt for chick-lit, but I think you should read some Marian Keyes. Your sense of humor reminds me of hers. You'll enjoy her books.

    1. "Sex and fire!" What a great name! I want a name like that.

      Thank you for the compliments, Evi. Few things make me happier than the thought of my blog making someone smile. You're right, of course - I've never read any Marian Keyes. You've piqued my interest, though, and her name will certainly go on my list : o )

  2. Well - I think you covered it all and since I didn't sleep well - I feel particularly dumb.

    I did want to start composing words for All Hail Our Blessed Bard to the tune of All Hail the Power of Jesus Name...I imagine that will be running in my head for the rest of the day...

    1. Sorry you're not sleeping well. Have a read of some of the evidence against the authenticity of Shakespeare - that made me pretty sleepy when I read it.