Shakespeare in Space #7: Life... It Is a Tale Told by an Idiot

400 years ago on this day, William Shakespeare died after (allegedly) having come down with a fever. 

Image Credit: NASA / Bill Anders, quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

On December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to fly to and orbit the Moon. As the spacecraft came around the dark side of the Moon, Earth appeared on the horizon. Astronaut Bill Anders took a picture of the scene, which was destined to become immortalized as "Earthrise," the first time humans had ever seen Earth from the perspective of another world. 

William Shakespeare lived and died on that big blue ball in the lunar sky—400 years ago, in a very different time. But in some way, the 20th-century culture that put humans on the Moon owes a lot to that famous 16th and 17th century playwright. Hundreds of phrases and quotations from Shakespeare's plays have come to directly influence the development of and culture surrounding the English language. And that influence has extended all the way into how we read, write, and even think. 

John F. Kennedy's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech was itself a theatrical performance that could be traced back to the Shakespearean canon. The title of Aldous Huxley's Utopian Brave New World was a line taken directly out of one of Shakespeare's plays. In some way, however indirectly, we owe just a little bit of those intrepid journeys to the surface of the Moon to William Shakespeare, a man who died a full 353 years before the first Lunar landing took place. 

It was from his bold words that we were inspired to dream of a larger world. And it is from that dream that we were inspired to boldly go. 

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