We’ve been trawling the internet of late for some comedy takes on Shakespeare to share on the NoSweatShakespeare facebook page, and slowly but surely have stumbled across the internet sub-culture of “memes”. Warning: 30 second internet culture/patronizing lesson coming up!
Historically, a meme has meant a discrete “package of culture” that travels via word of mouth – as a joke, song, parable, story etc. – with the idea being transmitted from one person to the next. The word meme (rhymes with “beam”) comes from the Greek word “mimema” (meaning “something imitated”), and is attributed to evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propogation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other.
In many ways it can be argued that Shakespeare was responsible for many memes himself – think of all the Shakespeare quotes, characters and storylines that pervade modern cultural thought to this day. Even the very few portraits that exist of Shakespeare could be said to be memes – so defined and now almost cliched in their use and overuse to represent one of the English language’s most revered writers.
The internet, by sheer virtue of its instant communication, is how we now spread modern memes to each other – and it offers the ability for anyone with access to a computer to generate and share memes. So, this post is a collection of the most amusing memes about Shakespeare we’ve come across (some admittedly funnier than others), created by Shakespeare lovers (and probably haters too!) around the world: