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Shakespeare’s legacy to the English language

Today marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. His plays and sonnets are among the best-selling works of all times, and have had an enormous influence on the development of the modern English language. Our everyday speech is full of words and phrases that were actually invented by Shakespeare.

If you’ve a ‘heart of gold’, refused ‘to budge an inch’, waited ‘with bated breath’, gone on ‘a wild goose chase’ or travelled “full circle”, you’ve been quoting Shakespeare from Henry V, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet or King Lear respectively!

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a remarkable multi-institutional project – Shakespeare Documented – has been established by the Folger Shakespeare Library. This project seeks to bring together every known manuscript and print reference to Shakepeare or his works that was made during his lifetime or shortly after, as well as additional contemporary documents that refer to his family.

For any fan of Shakespeare, or anyone interested in the life and times of 16th or 17th century England, this fascinating collection is a “must see”. It’s on-line at http://shakespearedocumented.org/