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Celebrating 400 Years Of Shakespeare & Cervantes

We remember two of the greatest literary names in history

By Nicole-Marie Ng



Don Quixote is still widely performed around the world. (Photo: Igor Bulgarin / Shutterstock.com)

Regarded as Spain’s most renowned writer, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, simply known as Cervantes, was the mastermind behind “Don Quixote”, a tale about a nobleman named Alonso Quixano.

Quixano has read so many chivalric romances that he decides to become a knight — styling himself “Don Quixote de la Mancha” — and to fight for justice in the world. He sets off with Sancho Panza, his unlikely squire, who employs quick wit in dealing with his grandiose plans.

Don Quixote is known as “the first modern novel” and is said to have inspired Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” and Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Some literary institutions also hail it as one of or the best literary work ever written.

The tragicomic character of Don Quixote has also been portrayed in countless cultural or artistic works from the classic to the contemporary, such as in paintings by Salvador Dali or pop music such as Nik Kershaw’s “Don Quixote” (1985). Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) is also in the process of shooting a new film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, starring Adam Driver — Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


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William Shakespeare


London celebrates 400 years of Shakespeare with live performances throughout this year. (Photo: Padmayogini / Shutterstock.com)

William Shakespeare is a name that requires no introduction. The English poet and playwright wrote approximately 154 sonnets and 38 plays in his lifetime and many of these are still widely performed today. He is regarded by many as the greatest literary author who ever lived.


Shakespeare’s works are still reproduced today, including this dark and gritty portrayal of Macbeth by Michael Fassbender at the end of last year. (Photo: Shaw Organisation)

“The Bard of Avon”, or simply “The Bard”, is famous for dramatic tragedies such as Hamlet and Macbeth (recently made into film, starring Michael Fassbender), and also some of the greatest romances in English literature including Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night.

To celebrate the life and works of Shakespeare, the British Council Singapore has organised a host of activities that will run throughout 2016.


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400th Anniversary Celebrations

Shaking It with Shakespeare Exhibition


(Photo: Singapore Philatelic Museum)

The Singapore Philatelic Museum has launched a new exhibition titled “Shaking It With Shakespeare”. It will run until Jan 12, 2017, and will showcase Shakespeare-themed stamps from around the world.

Children can experience exciting activities such as storytelling sessions, overnight adventure camps and painting workshops in the June holidays.

Singapore Philatelic Museum, 23B Coleman Street


Letters to Shakespeare
Discover the life and works of the Bard through the “Letters to Shakespeare” exhibition, performances and talks, organised by the National Library Board. The exhibition is at the Central Public Library until Jun 19 before moving to Marine Parade Library (Jun 23 to Jul 23), Clementi Public Library (Jul 27 to Aug 29) and Woodlands Regional Library (Sep 2 to 29).



Cervantes & Visiting CastilLA-La Mancha
A Spanish language and book day was held on Apr 23 while an exhibition entitled “A Trip to The World of Cervantes in Spain” was on until May 7, at the Central Public Library.

If you wish, you can take to your own flight of fancy to Castilla-La Mancha, the land in which the novel of Don Quixote is set.

Castilla-La Mancha is known for its traditional arts and crafts, and any trip to the area should include a visit to UNESCO World Heritage sites like Cuenca, the famous Hanging Houses and Toledo, the medieval capital of Spain famous for “Toledo steel” weaponry.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 153, May 27 – June 9, 2016, with the headline ‘Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare & Cervantes’.