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English Language Day 2021

English Language Day 2021: Celebrating Shakespeare

April 23, 2021
-Riya Ganguly

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

– William Shakespeare

From the ‘thou dost’s’ and ‘prithee’s’ to the ‘lol’s’ and ‘brb’s’, language has evolved significantly over the centuries. And yet Shakespeare is one of the first names that comes to our minds at the mention of English language; such is the everlasting impact of Shakespeare transcending all barriers of time, space and cultures.

Shakespeare’s birth and death anniversary – 23rd April was chosen as the ‘English Language Day’ by the United Nations to honour his lasting impression on language and literature whose impacts we see up to this date. This international observance not only pays a tribute to the myriad contributions made by Shakespeare but also aims to promote equal usage and popularity of all six officially recognized UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish) while celebrating multilingualism and cultural diversity.

Having introduced more than 3000 words and making up one-tenth of the most quoted lines in the English language, Shakespeare continues to be read, adapted and studied all around the world across nationalities and languages. However, flicking through pages of complex Elizabethan English and pondering over his ethereal sonnets are not the only way to celebrate the Bard’s legacy as Shakespeare has been integrated into popular culture and media around the world in the following ways:

English Language Day

Novels inspired by Shakespeare

From classics such as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick inspired by Shakespeare’s tragic heroes to Josephine Tey’s historical crime fiction set against the background of ‘Richard III’ to young adult novels such as E. Lockhart’s ‘King Lear’-inspired modern YA adaptation ‘We Were Liars’, Shakespeare has permeated every corner of literature as his epic tales of tragedy and comedy have been remodelled to suit all kinds of readers.

Graphic Novel adaptations

Igniting people’s imagination through compelling and vivid artistry, graphic novels have gained popularity over the years among children, teen readers and adults alike. Shakespeare has been no stranger to the world of graphic comics either, as the tragic tale of the Prince of Denmark was brought to life in all its drama and splendour by Crystal S. Chan and Julian Choi’s 2019 adaptation of Hamlet into the expansive world of Manga comics.

Shakespeare in films

Haider and Lion KingWho says Shakespeare has to be sombre and high-brow? If you enjoyed teen rom-coms like ‘She’s the Man’ and ’10 things I Hate About You’ or Hindi drama films like ‘Omkara’ or ‘Maqbool’, you were probably one of the many people who unknowingly enjoyed Shakespeare’s Elizabethan tragedies and comedies reworked into the modern era.

Gaining popularity across nationalities and languages, Shakespeare has been adapted into countless films and TV shows in various countries such as Akira Kuroshawa’s ‘Throne of Blood’ – an oriental reworking of Hamlet set in a post-war Japanese Society and Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Haider’ – an Indian modern-day adaptation reworked in the context of the insurgency-hit Kashmir conflicts. Even animated movies are no stranger to Shakespearean adaptations as one of Disney’s classic franchises ‘The Lion King’ has influences of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and Tom Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead’ – an absurdist tragi-comedic reworking of Hamlet.

Also read:

International Mother Language Day (IMLD): Languages without borders

10 foreign languages in demand across the globe

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