A full week late, yes, but I'm writing this in participation with Shakespeare's Birthplace Trust's week long celebration.
How has Shakespeare impacted my life? Well, to begin with, as an English-speaking member of the last 400 years of Western Civilization, a complete answer to that question would require the kind of patience, intelligence, research, insight & determination which I will leave to the likes of Harold Bloom. So I will attempt to keep this as personal & brief as I can, touching only on easily quantifiable highlights of my relationship with the Bard.
As a young boy, perhaps as young as eight, I very distinctly recall watching an animated TV special about 2 robots who had fallen in love against the wishes of their… parents (?!)… entitled Rom-E0 and Jul-E8. I also remember Fred Flintstone performing the balcony scene opposite Barney Rubble in a prehistoric production of Romeo & Juliet, proclaiming "more light and light, more dark and dark our toes…". Being eight, I had never seen nor read Romeo & Juliet, and yet somehow I understood all of the references & knew exactly what was being played with.
When I was thirteen, I read & studied Julius Caesar in Language Arts class: the first Shakespeare play I had ever read in its entirety. Inspired, I wrote one of my earliest plays: a parody of Julius Caesar detailing the "cocaine scandal" of the Edmonton Oilers hockey dynasty (Wayne Gretzky, for non-Canadians).
In my final year of high school, I collaborated on a short video parody of Hamlet, a loose weave of the Rocky Balboa saga & the life & times of Mike Tyson (with a Don King-eque Claudius).
In my first year of university, I purchased a used hard-cover copy of the Collected Works and read it from cover to cover (primarily on the bus between school and 2 jobs).
In my first year out of university, I landed my first professional acting job as Abram & Paris in a production of Romeo & Juliet.
While living in Vancouver for 2 (desperate) years, I joined an all-male-homo-erotic production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, playing (at various times) Flute, Cobweb, Moth, Egeus, Lysander, Demetrios, Titani(us), Hermi(us), Hippolyt(us) & Quince.
Upon returning to Winnipeg, I was given 2 lines in a production of King Lear, directed by Martha Henry ("Go thou: I'll fetch some flax and whites of eggs to apply to his bleeding face." & "News Madam! The English powers are marching hitherward!" [exclamation points are mine]).
Three years later, I performed in my first show with Shakespeare in the Ruins (Hamlet) and shortly thereafter became a member. I have participated in well over a dozen Shakespeare productions since then, as an actor, text coach & director. I have written a play based on Geoffrey Trease's novel about a young man living in Shakespeare's England, Cue For Treason. My current position as Artistic Co-Chair of SIR provides the mortgage payments on my house.
In short, on purely practical terms, the creative genius of William Shakespeare has (to varying degrees) provided me with a living for the past 16 years. In 2009, while visiting "Shakespeare's Birthplace", standing on the very stones upon which the man himself had (for all we know) trod, I was completely overcome by the awareness of this fact.
It occurs to me now that, whether I was fully aware of it or not, Shakespeare's works have provided my life with purpose and meaning, almost since the day I was born.
It could be said that he has done the same for much of the earth's population since the day he was born.