(I have borrowed the pictures from the illustrations the Guardian published two years ago as frontespieces for a series or articles commemorating his death in 1616).
Although many of his plots were not original, Shakespeare gave his plays so much life that it doesn’t really matter what the originals were: Hamlet is much more interesting as a philosoper-prince than he probably ever was as one of many muscular, decisive warriors we may meet in a medieval chronicle such as Saxo Dramaticus’, and if Richard of Gloucester wasn’t the evil man he is in The tragical history of Richard III, Shakespeare made him a blueprint for all manipulative despots.
(Well – I confess that right now my brain is melting down so I’ll stop trying to be interesting and intriguing, but I did want to post something for the Bard’s birthday. Just, go back to his plays, now and then. Can you imagine what a sad, boring world it would be if he had not been born?).