Cafe event to mark Bard's birthday

Monday, April 14, 2003

More than four centuries after his birth in April 1564, William Shakespeare is as relevant as ever, from the regime change in "Macbeth" to the "Romeo and Juliet" story inside Notre Dame High School's recent production of "West Side Story." Some of his phrases -- all's well that ends well, for instance -- have become part of the vernacular.

"With the possible exception of the King James version of the Bible, the most important influence on the language is Shakespeare hands down," said Dr. Roy Dawson, a professor emeritus of English at Southeast Missouri State University.

All that is the reason for the birthday celebration planned for the Bard at noon Wednesday at Grace Cafe, Pacific Street and Broadway. There will be a birthday cake, and the Nonsuch Strynge Bande will play songs by John Dowland, a composer of Shakespeare's era.

The ensemble of Southeast music students is directed by Dr. Brandon Christensen, a violin professor at Southeast Missouri State University.

The event is sponsored by the Department of Music.

'The fruit of love'

One of the tunes the ensemble will play is Dowland's beautiful, melancholy "Lachrimae Pavan," which was one of the hits of its day. "It's the kind of thing people would have recognized," Christensen said. Shakespeare mentions the pavan in one of his works.

Though not a musician, Shakespeare made music an intrinsic part of his plays.

"Both his poetry and his plays convey the philosophical understanding of the universal power of music as a directing and controlling force in the universe," said Jeffrey Noonan, who heads the guitar program at Southeast. "He used music to talk about how the universe works and to talk about love."

"If music be the fruit of love, play on," Shakespeare wrote in "Twelfth Night."

The party also will offer Southeast adjunct professor Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs reading from "Romeo and Juliet" and "Much Ado About Nothing." She has appeared in four of Shakespeare's plays.

"He gave us such wonderful stories and his use of language," she said. "We don't appreciate it enough today."

The vocabulary of Shakespeare's works exceeds 17,000 words. The average well-educated person has a vocabulary about one-fourth that size.

Though his plays were seen by royalty and rabble alike, everyone saw the same show, Dawson said.

"He wrote for ordinary people."

Unlike many great artists, Shakespeare was heralded and appreciated in his own time.

"He was the Tiger Woods of his day," Dawson said.

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