Day 100, No. 100. Shakespeare

The Chandos portraitHAIRCUT 100: Day 100, No. 100. At last, I reach the end of my spiritual journey. I hope you note that even in these times of political upheaval, global uncertainty and sheer existential terror – not to mention bereavement, self-employment, three other blogs, a book contract and a five-year-old – I have never missed a day! I started this blog on August 11 this year. At an average of 500 words per post, that’s approximately 50,000 words written in three months. Wow. Go me. I wish the latest novel was coming together so quickly.

To recap, this has been a celebration of awesome baldness in all its forms, in honour of those of us who, for whatever reason, are a bit thin on top. For my dear friend Colin, who passed away on Day 68, it was chemotherapy what done it; for me, bloody alopecia areata universalis. Sometimes it’s part of the aging process, sometimes it’s just bad luck. I appreciate it can be a style thing or a statement, but, by and large, most of us don’t choose to go skinhead. I was a long-hair. This was never my natural look, so I needed something to guide me through the transition; compiling a cavalcade of Kojaked cultural icons was deeply therapeutic. To paraphrase the Bard, ‘Oh bald new world, that has such people in’t!’ If you are going through hair loss, or, especially, if you have a kid dealing with it, I would urge you to do the same. It really does help raise self-esteem again, and it’s actually rather fun.

Looking back at my list, it certainly betrays my age as much as my interests. I’m acutely aware of many more contemporary examples, particularly in sport and music, I might have used, but then I’ve gotta be me – make your own darn list! I am old and geeky, I did warn you, hence all those references to classic horror and sci-fi. But one way or the other, I did the ton and as a rocker of the old school that is always what it’s about…

Anyway (drum roll), here is the final entry in the original ‘Haircut 100.’ Now, this ain’t The Prisoner, so it isn’t going to turn out to be me. As well as being geeky, I am also a literary man, so, in the 400th year since his death, it is in every way appropriate to conclude this project with William Shakespeare (1564–1616): Bard of Avon, poet, playwright, and actor, and very probably the greatest writer in the English language. The son of a provincial glovemaker and a farmer’s daughter, Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two epic poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and have been performed, studied and re-interpreted consistently across the world and across the centuries, being staged more than the work of any other playwright in history. As Ben Johnson wrote in the prefatory poem to the First Folio edition of his collected plays (1623), Shakespeare was ‘not of an age, but for all time.’

Shakespeare’s early works were comedies and histories, and having mastered these genres he turned his attention to tragedy, producing such incredible plays as Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. Well, you know who he was… Debate continues over the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, but these are essentially popular and academic conspiracy theories with very little supporting evidence. It is as if we cannot somehow accept this level of genius in a single human being who produced all these wonderful words with, as I believe Peter Ackroyd once pointed out, nothing more than a sharpened feather. If you think about it, no-one questions the ownership of the work of prolific talents like Mozart, Dickens, Picasso or David Bowie. Occasionally, once or twice in a generation, some people are simply that brilliant.

Shakespeare was recently celebrated on the BBC by the redoubtable Philomena Cunk, who noted that school must’ve been very different for him, on account of not having to study Shakespeare. ‘If Shakespeare had written Taken,’ she argued, ‘it’d be four hours long and be mainly Liam Neeson fretting and pacing and talking to bones. That’s the basic difference between Hamlet and Taken: Liam Neeson makes up his mind.’ He did, however, she concedes, give the world Romeo and Juliet, ‘easily the finest romance of the pre-Dirty Dancing era.’

So there you have it. They say Shakespeare pretty much had a word for everything, and that includes hair loss, which is covered in The Comedy of Errors (written between 1592 and 1594), Act II, Scene 2. Enjoy:

ANTIPHOLUS: Why is Time such a niggard of hair, being, as it is, so plentiful an excrement?

DROMIO: Because it is a blessing that time bestows on beasts; and what he has scanted men in hair, he hath given them in wit.

ANTIPHOLUS: Why, but there’s many a man hath more hair than wit.

DROMIO: Not a man of those but he hath the wit to lose his hair.

Thank you for reading!


(Exits, pursued by a wig)

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