Home » Shakespeare is Everywhere: Christopher Gaze at TEDxVancouver (Transcript)

Shakespeare is Everywhere: Christopher Gaze at TEDxVancouver (Transcript)

Christopher Gaze

Following is the full transcript of British actor Christopher Gaze’s TEDx Talk titled “Shakespeare is Everywhere” at TEDxVancouver conference.

Listen to the MP3 audio while reading the transcript: Shakespeare is everywhere by Christopher Gaze @ TEDxVancouver


Hello. You’ve been eating Pop-Tarts. I resisted. It looks fantastic though.

Well now, what a day we’re having, absolutely inspirational, fantastic. I saw Romeo Dallaire remark on these geese earlier on, and I considered these geese, Canada geese. They’re all over the world, you know. They’re taking over the world. A bit like Shakespeare.

Shakespeare surrounds us. The Shakespeare we’re enormously familiar with, but the Shakespeare that we know and we don’t know. And of course, every day, we’re quoting Shakespeare but we don’t know it.

Shakespeare – We don’t know a great deal about the man. What we know about him is generally through his works. He was a man, just like you and me, he lived his life, felt great joy and great sadness, tremendous success and great tragedy.

In Canada – talk about Shakespeare surrounding us – we have the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, that’s the biggest theatre festival, I might add, in North America. We have — that’s right!

We have Bard on the Beach Shakespeare here in Vancouver. We’ve got Shakespeare festivals in between. In America, Americans love their Shakespeare, they have Ashland, Oregon, lots of Shakespeare’s festivals through America. You have The Globe in London, and, of course, The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

So, Shakespeare is alive and well, but since you leapt out of bed this morning, and you’ve had this wonderful day here, I’m sure most of you are very much unaware that you’ve been quoting Shakespeare all day.

Let me give you a bunch of examples. First of all, I want you to do something for a change. When I point at you and beckon you on, I want you to say, “Quoting Shakespeare.”

Now, come on, with all that energy from the Pop-Tarts, give it a go.

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

That’s pretty good. Once more, even louder.

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you cannot understand my argument and declare, “It’s Greek to me”, you are.

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you claim to be, “More sinned against than sinning”, you are.

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you, “Recall your salad days”, you are…

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are…

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you’ve ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you’ve been played fast and loose, been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance on your lord and master, laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing.

If you’ve seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise, why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are, as good luck would have it.

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

If you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and the short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge at one fell swoop without rhyme or reason, then, to give the devil his due, if the truth were known — for surely you have a tongue in your head, you are…

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

Even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was as dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then, by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts – it’s all one to me, for you are…

[Audience: Quoting Shakespeare!]

There you are.

So, Shakespeare surrounds us. Let’s look at the private man that I alluded to a moment ago. The private man, the playwright in London, the producer, the actor. There’s a gorgeous little sonnet. A sonnet is a 14-line poem, and Shakespeare wrote over 150 of those.

And this particular one – it’s perhaps one of the best known pieces of poetry, I think, probably in the world – “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.”

Now generally this little piece of poetry is said, or recited, or written down, for great occasions, weddings, birthdays, celebrations. But there’s a theory that in fact, nestling inside this poetry, if you think of it another way, Shakespeare, we didn’t know, and the mystery that surrounds all that, that in fact, this little sonnet was a eulogy.

Shakespeare had 3 children, one of them was a son. His little boy was called Hamnet, not Hamlet, this one is H-A-M-N-E-T. The other one H-A-M-L-E-T is a very good play he wrote. But his son was called Hamnet and he got word, when he was working away in London, that Hamnet was very sick.

Now, here’s the man, the man like you and me, living his life and now crisis hits. And of course, he has to go. He has to go from London.

If we were to drive from central London to Stratford-upon-Avon now, where his family were, that would probably take us, if we had a good run, a little over 90 minutes. But in those days, it was 3 days!

So, Shakespeare took off and he got there, and when he got to Stratford, he was met by his family and he found out that his son was dead, buried. There was nothing left to do.

But, what could he do apart from comfort his family? But to survive it, what was he going to do? You imagine the heartache. I like to imagine that perhaps, after everyone had gone to bed, he stayed up, with a candle and his quill pen.

And he wrote and he did what Shakespeare could do best of all. Through words, he could express his feelings. And I like to think he wrote this little poem “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day“, and he talks about eternity in the poem, and as long as men can breathe and eyes can see, this lives forever. That this froze little Hamnet in time in his mind, to be an immortal in Shakespeare’s lifetime.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do break the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

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