A real Renaissance man, the Bard was a soothsayer, too


Long before Dr. Ruth or Dr. Laura, before Abby or Ann or Miss Manners, someone had all the questions and all the answers. Before Freud, Einstein and certainly Andy Rooney, he had all the insight. He wrote Lady Di's life story almost 400 years before it unfolded. Bill's and Monica's, too.

We're talking Shakespeare, a man who had something to say about almost everything, and whose simplest lines continue to hold meaning. "Out, damn spot!" might mean one thing to Macbeth, something else again to Bill Clinton.

And at age 435 this year, his dead-white-maleness notwithstanding, he's as popular as ever. The new film "Shakespeare in Love" is the 309th based on his works. He was just voted Man of the Millennium in Great Britain.

And while he may not be a Nostradamus, a perusal of his writings turns up many hidden meanings, maybe even prognostications, for today.

On impeachment:

* Clinton's big hope: "All's Well That Ends Well"

* Ken Starr's reflection: "Wherefore do I do this? So the question stands. Briefly, to this end: we are all diseased 1/8 And with our surfeiting and wanton hours 1/8 Have brought ourselves into a burning fever." ("Henry IV, Part Two")

* Public reaction: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." ("Henry VI")

On the right to die (more than a dozen of his main characters take the Kevorkian route to the next world):

* "The drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die." ("Romeo and Juliet")

* "It is silliness to live when to live is torment." ("Othello")

On marriage and family (the Bard was not an optimist):

* "Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage." ("Twelfth Night")

* "I say we will have no more marriage." ("Hamlet")

On aging baby boomers:

* "For you and I are past our dancing days." ("Romeo and Juliet")

On Mark McGwire's 70th home run:

* "A hit, a very palpable hit." ("Hamlet")

On all that NBA nonsense:

* "Now is the winter of our discontent." ("Richard III")

On Viagra:

* "Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?" ("Henry IV")

On assessing 1998:

* "What's done is done." ("Macbeth")

* "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." ("Richard II")

On new year's favorite resolution -- weight loss:

* "Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt, 1/8 Thaw and resolve itself into a dew." ("Hamlet")

Pub Date: 01/10/99

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