Archive for the Context Category

To Make Much of Time

Posted in Context on 2014/01/01 by mattermind

New year’s day is the perfect moment to meditate on time for obvious reasons, but especially in lieu of the opening two chapters of Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: the Biography.

He presents us with mortality figures from Shakespeare’s age that boggle the contemporary mind. For example, that the average lifespan was 47 years!

Think on this a moment. Reflect on how your priorities would change if you knew this in advance. Not only would you have to be lucky or rich (or both) to survive childhood, but the odds of making it to old age were slim and next to none.

Throw in the hazards of childbirth, the absence of labor laws, the lack of social safety nets, the lack of scientific research and what you end up with is a pretty grim backdrop for everyday life in 16th century Britain.

The shock to my system comes from how much I take for granted here and now. Forty seven seems young and certainly sounds so when a celebrity (or anyone) dies around that age.

Forty seven is the age of football coaches or young presidents and ambitious CEO and actors entering the prime of their careers. I mean, Brad Pitt just turned 50 for crying out loud. U2 just recently hit 50 and those guys are about to drop a new album and launch an ambitious world tour.

What would YOU do if you could only reasonably expect 50 years out of life? Would you make the same decisions? Take each day at the same pace?

No wonder the globe was not teeming with nearly 7 billion people! How could it, when few survived childhood and those who did rarely achieved old age?

What effect does this have on our understanding of Shakespeare and his works? And how will knowing this affect mine???

Shakespeare was born in 1564. How many of you were born around 1964?

Shakespeare died in 1616. Now think on that and make much use of time.