By Philip R. Devlin
(April 23, 2023) — April 23rd is William Shakespeare’s birthdate. He was born in 1564 and died in 1616– on his 52nd birthday! Besides his 37 surviving plays and 154 sonnets, however, Shakespeare left behind a legacy of being an unparalleled wordsmith. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Will Shakespeare contributed an estimated 3,000 new words to the English language, including modern slang words that refer to sexual organs and sexual acts, a fact that most people don’t realize but is detailed in English scholar Eric Partridge’s book Shakespeare’s Bawdy (1947).
Additionally, according to the Oxford Book of Quotations, William Shakespeare alone is responsible for more than 10% of the most frequently cited quotations in English. His insights into the human condition as depicted in master works such as Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear are unparalleled in literature. So, on his birthday, let us salute the wordsmith from Stratford-on-Avon. My longtime teaching colleague and friend at HK, Paul Kelly, always did.
Raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Paul Kelly went to Boston University where he played hockey and got a degree in science. He began teaching science at the old Haddam Junior High around 1960 then transitioned into HK after regionalization, teaching both in the middle and high schools. More than 40 years later he retired from teaching after making a big impact on both his students and his colleagues. Mr. Kelly was named runner-up as state teacher of the year during his career and is a member of the HK Hall of Fame. Everyone who knew him always remembers one thing: his sense of humor. Thoughts of Paul Kelly always bring a smile to people’s faces. Long time HK Director of Guidance, Ray Schreck, once told me that Kelly was the only teacher that he never heard a complaint about.
Besides History and Latin, I mainly taught junior year English at HKHS for more than 30 years. On the first day of spring each year, I could always expect a call from Paul Kelly at some time during the day. He would immediately launch into a recitation of William Wordsworth’s poem about daffodils, “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud.” He never missed a line.
On April 23rd, Shakespeare’s birthday, Mr. Kelly would walk over to my English class during a break in his teaching duties and walk up and down the aisles of my classroom, never pausing and reciting the dagger soliloquy from Macbeth, right hand held aloft clutching a pencil, his make-believe dagger. The students would all smile and laugh. Invariably, someone would say, “But I thought Mr. Kelly is a science teacher”! To which I would reply, “Like all well-educated people of his generation, Mr. Kelly knows a great deal about a lot of things.”
So, on April 23rd each year I always pause to remember the remarkable contributions of Will Shakespeare to our world as well as Paul Kelly’s annual tribute to the bard of Stratford-on-Avon. Both are unforgettable.