As 2016 ushers in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare, it also bids adieu to a number of icons who, like the father of the English canon, have become recognised as cultural touchstones of the contemporary era. But, in the wake of Bowie, Prince and Wood’s deaths, we wonder if their lives too will be celebrated on their quarter centennial year or simply forgotten, yet another victim of time’s amnesia.
The urge to be remembered, to circumvent the mortality of the human body by indelibly imprinting ourselves on the cultural landscape we leave behind, is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest concern as English students will be familiar. His plays are haunted by the fear of self-erasure, as characters prophesy their own memorial impressions and consequently experiment with methods of enduring: how, the ol’ Bard asks, does one ensure the preservation and immutability of memory?
“Do not forget” is Hamlet’s filial duty and Romeo and Juliet’s opening speech marks an obituary to its “star-crossed lovers”. King John torturously laments his own historical effacement, to be recalled as a mere “scribbled form”, whilst Bertram’s ring and Othello’s handkerchief are objects invested with dynastic baggage, carrying their owners’ respective genealogical histories and ensuring the preservation of a collective familial identity. Even Shakespeare’s procreation sonnets warn against the mortality that necessarily inheres within unmarried life: “Die single and thine image dies with thee”.
Still firmly embedded in the 21st-century consciousness, Shakespeare’s desire to remain persists: it is our triumphant vestiges of self, those retained in the minds and bodies of our survivors, which serve as the measurement of our success as living subjects. We can only hope that history will be as kind to those lost in 2016 as it has been to Shakespeare.
- Oxbridge Open Day Guide With open days drawing ever nearer, applicants and parents alike... Read more >
- Experimental Psychology & Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS) Reading List If you are interested in Psychology, Oxford offers the Psychology... Read more >
- Download a Physics Personal Statement “Over the past few years I have become gradually more... Read more >
- June’s Top News Stories Read more about some of the biggest news stories to... Read more >
- Oxford and Cambridge International Grade Requirements If you’re applying to Cambridge or Oxford but you’ve not... Read more >
- Download a Biology Personal Statement “Assisting with the post mortem of a dairy cow during... Read more >
- Interactive Interview Exercise Manual ‘What should I expect at my Oxbridge interview?’ ‘How will... Read more >
- MLAT overview If you’re applying for Modern Languages, or their joint schools, you... Read more >
- Is a “Religious Morality” rational? One of our Oxbridge graduate tutors, Emma, looks into the... Read more >
- 20 Real-Life Oxford and Cambridge Interview Questions The Oxford and Cambridge interviews are notorious for having academically... Read more >
- Modern Languages and Linguistics Reading Lists Applying for languages? It’s always difficult to narrow down what... Read more >
- What Results Do You Need In Your Exams? At the heart of every Oxbridge offer is an excellent... Read more >
- Music Reading List Applying for Music at Cambridge or Oxford requires a range... Read more >
- English Language and Literature Reading List If you're applying for English, have a look at our... Read more >
- Choosing a course From Arch and Anth to Veterinary Medicine, the range of... Read more >
- What’s so special about Oxford and Cambridge? Both Oxford and Cambridge have fearsome reputations. The Oxbridge system... Read more >
- Choosing The Right A-Levels Picking subjects at A level can be a difficult decision... Read more >
- Cambridge college snapshots Despite having a smaller number of colleges than Oxford, each of... Read more >
- Pooling: Fast Facts You may have heard people talk about “pooling”, or maybe... Read more >
- The Architecture of an Education: what are colleges all about? Explaining the difference between Oxford and Cambridge colleges and the... Read more >
- Application Calendar Making an application to Oxford or Cambridge can seem like... Read more >
- LNAT ‘So you want to go to Oxbridge’ Answers If you have been reading our book ‘So you want... Read more >
- UCAS: A How To Guide The process of applying to university through UCAS can seem... Read more >
- Course By Course Fact Sheet This helpful guide sets out by course what grades you... Read more >