Thursday, 23 April 2009

Happy birthday

Bill Shakespeare – 444 today (or he would have been if still alive!).

It is, of course, also St George's Day – not just in England, but in a number of other countries around the world. And he's also supposed to be the patron saint of syphilitics and those suffering from a number of other sexually transmitted diseases. He was, by all accounts, a religious fundamentalist.

So when I want to celebrate the best of England and Englishness, I'll think of something else instead – something actually English would be a start.

It does a raise a number of interesting questions, though:

  • the nature of patriotism and nationalism;

  • whether one can celebrate the best of one's country, remaining realistic about the worst of it, without falling into nationalistic attitudes;

  • whether choosing not to – or rather, if one disdains those who do want to celebrate, you drive them to more extremist attitudes and into the hands of extremists;

  • whether one should actively use occasions such as this to promote the best things – tolerance etc. Whether, indeed, to reclaim such a day from extremists (if it needs reclaiming).

Whatever – I'll raise a glass this evening to Bill – our national poet, the greatest and most influential playwright ever, and an export of which we can justifiably be happy.

So, to anyone else who wants to celebrate – happy St George's Day. And to those who don't – have a good day too.


  1. Most influential? I think not. Euripides or Sophokles, more like. anglosaxons are funny. it's always either shakespeare or ulysses that smash the competition. dude. serious myopia problem.