Celebrations to mark the 400th anniversaries of literary giants’ deaths

Even English speakers who have not read William Shakespeare are influenced by his work each day. The same is true for Spanish speakers and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Both giants of literature died in 1616. Cervantes died April 22, and Shakespeare died the next day. The 400th anniversaries of their deaths are being celebrated around the world. The works of both authors have become standards in other languages and nations.

The Sistema Nacional de Bibliotecas will celebrate Cervantes April 23, which has been designated as the World Book and Copyright Day. There will be activities at the nation’s public libraries.

The Centro Cultural de España in Costa Rica and the Centro Cultural Británico plan a celebration the same day at the Spanish cultural center in Barrio Escalante. The event is called 16/16 to note that both authors died in 1616. The works of both will be presented.

Cervantes, author of “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha,” is considered the world’s most famous novelist. He wrote others after “Quijote” gained fame, but none has transcended it. Shakespeare is the playwright who cranked out script after script, usually on deadline. His storylines usually came from earlier works, including some from the Greek classics.

Cervantes’s hero, Quijote, frequently can be identified with those who seek to do good and change the world for the better. His sidekick, Sancho Panza, is more practical. The depiction of tilting at windmills mistaken for giants is a classic. There even is a Broadway musical.

Shakespeare takes a little work because the language also is 400 years old. In most cases, the many plays are best seen rather than read. The subject matter of his plays sometimes has caused more modern authors to redo them and make substantial changes. There even was a “Romeo and Juliet” with a happy ending. And even today, the casting of a love

An early copy of 'Don Quijote."

An early copy of ‘Don Quijote.”

interest as a 13 year old rubs some the wrong way.

Thanks to YouTube, most of the works are at the touch of a click. There even is a reading of “Don Quijote” in Spanish with visible text in Spanish. There also is at least one movie.

There is a lot from Shakespeare on YouTube, too. There even is a production by the The Reduced Shakespeare Co. that seeks to summarize all of the Bard’s works in one humorous performance. The gentle reader might want to skip “Titus Andronicus.”

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