St. George’s Favorite Son

April 23rd has always been a holiday for me. I confess; I’m an Anglophile. But don’t think that mars my noir street cred. Chandler spent most of his boyhood in England, and the “English Gentleman” ideal was inured in his soul. And his books were recognized as literature there — not just thrilling crime fiction.

So I’m in good company. I love the green and pleasant land, even when it isn’t green and pleasant.

So why is today a holiday? Well, it’s St. George’s Day. As a Dragon myself (in the Chinese horoscope), I don’t take too kindly to that dragon-slaying image. But good ol’ George (no report on whether he was curious) is the patron saint of England. But even that’s not enough to make it a real holiday for me.

What clinches the deal is Shakespeare. And no, I’m not talking about Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Queen Elizabeth, or any of the other royals academics and conspiracy buffs have foisted upon the public as the “real deal.” I’m talking William Shakespeare, middle class glover’s son, who ran off to London, became an actor, made a decent enough living and impact to get some royal backing and procure a coat of arms for his dear old dad, and who, incidentally, wrote the greatest literature in the English language.

Shakespeare. The one and only Will. He may or may not have looked like Joseph Fiennes, but the man did exist, and he did write plays. Middle class education and all …

Take a look at Julius Caesar, for example. A long, long time ago (as a student) I wrote a rather extensive research paper on how Elizabeth employed imagery of imperial Rome to help tie her to her father and legitimize her reign; Julius Caesar, performed for Elizabeth in the midst of her troubles with the rebellious Essex, fully supports the legitimacy of princely rule — as heroic as Brutus (or Essex) may have seemed.

In other words, Shakespeare supported a typically middle-class position. Now, since this is a blog and not an academic journal (and huzzah for that!) I won’t go into detail. Just know that good ol’ Will was (I believe) a solid burgher and devoted supporter of Tottenham Hotspur (never Chelsea).

Anyway, here’s the point: today is his birthday. And whether you read noir, cozies, historicals, chick-lit, paranormal horror or romantic humor, you need to hoist a glass to Shakespeare … because, in his thirty-seven surviving plays … the Bard wrote it all.

Paranormal? Try Macbeth. Noir? Othello or Hamlet (yes, both protagonists are #&*%@ on page one). Chick-lit? Well, there’s The Merchant of Venice with the cross-dressing legal eagle, Portia. Historicals are there in abundance, from the John and all the Henrys down through Troilus and Cressida. If you seek a cozy, try the Merry Wives of Windsor … romantic humor? Much Ado About Nothing comes to mind. And of course, for (tragic) romantic suspense, you can’t beat Romeo and Juliet.

So pull out the London Pride and pour yourself a tall one … and on April 23rd, remember St. George’s Favorite Son. “To die … to sleep … to sleep, perchance to dream, aye, there’s the rub … for in that sleep of death what dreams may come–when we have shuffled off this mortal coil– must give us pause …”

Now, that’s noir! 😉

Next week: back to film with #9 on the countdown …