Shakespeare: 400 Years Gone, Still Cooler Than Us All

Hop onto the Google homepage today and you’ll notice it’s looking distinctly … Shakespearean. The artwork commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, “writer, playwright, and one of the most eloquent voices of all time,” wrote Google.

Yes, it’s true: Shakespeare and his words were the shining paradigm of English eloquence but did you know he was also the original arbitrator of cool? Fresher than Jay-Z after a long shower, Shakespeare was a man way ahead of his time. How do I know this? Let me count the ways: 

1. He literally invented swagger. In Act III, Scene I, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Puck asks, “What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” Experts say it’s the first-known instance of “swagger.” So what sayeth you now, Justin Bieber?

2. He was married to Anne Hathaway. OK, not that Anne Hathaway. The original Anne Hathaway (a.k.a. Mrs. Shakespeare) is a woman shrouded in much mystery and speculation. We do know they wed in 1582 when William was 18 and she was (gasp!) 26 and pregnant with Shakespeare’s child. We also know that Sonnet 145 was most likely written about Anne: “Those lips of my mistress, made by the hand of Venus herself,” penned Shakespeare, which was enough to make the future Mrs. Shakespeare swoon … for life.

3. His dad made money drinking beer. “I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety,” says a character called “Boy” in Henry V, Act III, Scene II, and perhaps this line comes from familial experience. John, Shakespeare’s father, was tasked with one of the most important and respected jobs in Stratford: tasting ales to make sure they were up to standards and sold at prices regulated by the Crown. Uh, how can I get that job?

4. He wore a gold hoop earring. “All that glisters is not gold,” declares Morocco in Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VII. But for Shakespeare, it was definitely about the bling. A 1660s or 1670s-dated portrait of the Bard shows him with a gleaming gold hoop in his ear. So he wasn’t just a trend-setting wordsmith, he was a fashion icon, too.

shakespeare-gold-earring

5. Even Presidents rearrange their schedules for Shakespeare. Yep, Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States took some time to visit London’s Globe Theater Saturday to pay tribute to the playwright on the 400th anniversary of his passing. This may be the strongest evidence yet that even four centuries after his passing, William Shakespeare is still the bardest—err, baddest—player in the game.

[MELISSA MARNI is a Southern California-based writer and the founder of little word studio. You can follow her musings on Instagram here.]