Campus beat: U celebrates Shakespeare's 450th birthday

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2014 - 6:53 PM

Pop quiz:

Who coined the terms:

Vanished into thin air?

As luck would have it?

It’s Greek to me?

Dead as a doornail?

It’s easy to forget how many phrases, in the English language, were coined by William Shakespeare. That’s one reason that the English and Theater Departments at the U are throwing a party in his honor — as part of a worldwide celebration of the Bard’s 450th birthday.

Next week’s anniversary — known as “Shakespeare 450” — is a chance to show that the liberal arts are alive and well.

At the U, the Will Shakespeare Birthday Bash will feature street performers, swordplay and birthday cake at Murphy Hall from 4 to 6 p.m. on April 23, the day it’s believed Shakespeare was born in 1564.

“We’ll try to make it a little bit like it was in Shakespeare’s day, with strolling refreshments and lots of no doubt revelry and hilarity,” said Terri Sutton, an English Department organizer.

There will also be an open mike for anyone who wants to recite a favorite sonnet or soliloquy (costumes are optional).

Dennis Behl, of the Theater Arts Department, said the party is one way to highlight Shakespeare’s relevance to modern-day audiences.

This month, the department staged one of the most famous plays — “Romeo and Juliet” — to “sold-out houses,” he said. “Macbeth” packed in crowds as well, and “Hamlet” is in performances at the Rarig Center from Thursday through April 27. “We decided that we should roll these all together because [of] this anniversary,” Behl said.

This month, a student at an English conference wondered why Shakespeare deserved such outsized attention. “He was kind of shouted down,” Sutton said. But in a nice way, she added. Even today, Shakespeare’s language, themes and characters have a way of capturing students. “They may start out a little reticent,” she said, “but he usually wins them over.”

maura.lerner@startribune.com

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