Brush Up Your Shakespeare


Today is the 448th Anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.

OK. I heard that!!!!  I can hear those moans and groans from clear across the nation and the oceans blue, you know.

It is always sad for me that my chosen profession of teaching so often manages to kill, or at least seriously maim, an appreciation for the greatest dramatist and writer the English language has ever known; a man who made the English language what it is today: a lingua franca.


Why does Shakespeare matter? Well, number one, he created, published, and added thousands of NEW words to the English language.  According to nosweatShakespeare, “In all of his work – the plays, the sonnets and the narrative poems – Shakespeare uses 17,677 words: Of those, 1,700 were first used by Shakespeare.”

His influence on modern day English is tremendous. I bet a week does not go by where you, or someone you know, does not use at least one word or phrase penned by Shakespeare.

Don’t believe me? Try this one out for size:


All that glitters is not gold,” comes from The Merchant of Venice.

Or, “Eaten me out of house and home,” first spoken in Henry IV.


Here are just a few more:

In a pickle (The Tempest)

Kill with kindness (Taming of the Shrew)

Love is blind (Merchant of Venice)

Melted into thin air (The Tempest)

Much Ado About Nothing (title)

Naked truth (Love’s Labours Lost)

Refuse to budge an inch (Measure for Measure / Taming of the Shrew)

For goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)

Foregone conclusion (Othello)

Full circle (King Lear)

Give the devil his due (Henry IV)

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)

It was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)

Heart of gold (Henry V)

Unbelievable, isn’t it !?!

Source:  You will find literally dozens more Shakespeare phrases by clicking on the link. I think you will be surprised at some of these. I know I was.



Another reason Shakespeare matters is his plays deal with universal themes: heroism, friendship, war, love, the consequences of holding grudges, government, sex, murder, hate, greed, and our relations to each other. We still grapple with these themes in today’s world.

Shakespeare’s plays are populated with larger than life characters such as King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, Shylock. Yet we see glimpses of  ourselves in these characters as well.

I think one of the reasons many people groan at the thought of Shakespeare is that they had to READ him in school.

You can’t read Shakespeare!!!!!
You have to hear Shakespeare.
Or better yet, hear a good actor perform Shakespeare.

I first found this out as a senior in high school when I had the thrill of seeing and hearing Helen Hayes and Maurice Evans perform live in A Night Of Shakespeare.  The two actors made the words come alive. I came. I saw. I laughed. I cried. I heard. I understood. Shakespeare conquered!!  

I still treasure my autographed Program from that incredible night.

You don’t need Spark Notes or other study guides to understand Shakespeare when you hear it well performed. You instantly know why Shakespeare was popular across all levels of Elizabethan society. He told a story well with high drama, great insight into the human condition and psyche, plenty of comedy and wit , and some slapstick thrown in for good measure.

One of my favorite Shakespeare verse is the ‘Band of Brothers’, or St. Crispin’s Speech from Henry V. The band of brother’s speech, when spoken by a great actor such as Laurence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh, moves me to tears every time I hear it.  

Against a numerically superior French force, against all odds, a small, tired ragtag English army beat the French at Agincourt in one of the battles of the 100 Years War. The St. Crispen’s Day speech, in Henry V,  remains the finest dramatic interpretation of what leadership meant to the men in the Middle Ages.



I swear Branagh can make iambic pentameter sound like street language.

So even though it is a little late Mr. Shakespeare, Happy Birthday. The language you helped shape and make great is still alive, well, and going strong thanks to you!

Quote of the Day

He was not of an age, but for all time!
Ben Jonson on Shakespeare (1573 – 1637) 

Featured Recipe          Kohl Slaw

Today’s recipe is a cool, crisp, and refreshing slaw.

This is a Culinary Philosopher recipe.

This is a slaw made from kohlrabi, a German turnip. It has a mild almost sweet flavor and is very nutritious. If you want the nutrition details click the  following link: NutritionData.

This is an easy recipe and very delicious. It is refreshing slaw and salad and would be wonderful with any BBQ.

Not every store carries kohleabi. And it tends to be available mostly in spring. But if you can find it, I highly recommend this super and inexpensive dish.

I also recommend you stop by CulinaryPhilosopher’s web site and learn more.

I have pretty much left the recipe as CulinaryPhilisopher wrote it.

This is what you need for 4 people:

For the Dressing

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

¼ – ½ tsp kosher or sea salt (to taste, but it is helpful to add some salt to the dressing)

2 Tbsp sesame oil

Here is what you do for the dressing:

Combine all of the ingredients well. The most important thing is to get the salt and sugar dissolved. I have found it useful to combine all of the ingredients except the sesame oil and use that “seasoned” vinegar to flavor vegetables of all types applying sesame or other oils after they have been tossed in the seasoned vinegar.

For the Slaw

1 lb peeled and shredded kohlrabi

1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded

2 scallions, sliced very thinly on a diagonal (in the restaurant we say “cut on the bias”)

1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds

1 Tbsp toasted black sesame seeds.

Here is what you do for the slaw:

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add seasoned vinegar, toss to coat. Finally, add the sesame oil (unless you already incorporated it into the dressing) and let stand for at least ½ hour. Toss the salad again before you serve it.

Below are my pictures of making this recipe with commentary and suggestions for making the slaw.

Ingredients for Dressing and Slaw

I peeled by cutting sides with knife and peeling off what was left of the skin with a peeler.

CP shreds in processor. I used box cheese grater.

About now is time to begin toasting sesame seeds. This will not take long. Do not burn.

Place shredded kohlrabi in a bowl.


You can shred carrot in processor. I used julienne peeler & did directly into bowl.

Peel a piece of ginger. I used far less than recipe called for. Fresh ginger is too strong for me.

Slice the green onions.

Add onions to slaw and toss. I do not follow CP directions here as I do not add the sesame seeds now.

For the Dressing: place sugar and what ever salt you are using in a bowl.

Add the vinegar and mix very, very, VERY well until all of the sugar and salt is dissolved.

All sugar and salt dissolved completely.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the slaw and toss well. Let marinate 30 minutes.

Add the sesame seed oil and toss again.

I don't add the sesame seeds when CP does. I wait till now so they do not get soggy in the marinade. So add the sesame seeds now and toss to mix in well.

Serve the Kohl Slaw on individual salad plates.



2 Tbsp rice vinegar                           $0.10

2 Tbsp sugar                                    $0.08

1 Tbsp fresh ginger                           $0.07

¼ – ½ tsp kosher salt                       $—-

2 Tbsp sesame oil                             $0.84

1 lb kohlrabi                                      $1.99

1 medium carrot                               $0.11

2 scallions                                        $0.14

1 Tbsp white sesame seeds               $1.34

1 Tbsp black sesame seeds               $0.51

Total Cost = $5.18 

Cost per person = $1.30


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5 comments to Brush Up Your Shakespeare

  • Friend with a job

    Always checking out your blog in the evening CA time! Your pictures look different tonight and there are cut lines around the pictures and words. Something different? Great blog and recipe as always!

    • Roberta

      Hi Friend: Glad you liked post and recipe. As for the pictures, they look OK to me. However, each picture has a caption instead of my typing my own commentary above the picture as I normally do. I did that since I used Chef Philosopher’s actual wordage for his recipe in the post. Normally I write my own. Does that explain it? This was a one time thing and only for this recipe. I will be back to “normal” on Wednesday.

  • I LOVE sesame seed oil—I could bathe in it. Dab a little behind my ear and fall in love with myself! I can’t wait to make this. YUMMMO!!!!

  • Holy cow! What a blog post. I’m in awe of the time you spend crafting your posts. You saw Helen Hayes perform live?? OMG what an honor to see her perform. She’s one of my performing heros of the last century.

    Your Kohl Slaw looks really yummy and the addition of both white and black sesame seeds is attractive.

    I love your blog!

  • I’m just finishing up my 2nd college course in a row (and 3rd overall) on Shakespeare–I hear ya! 🙂