Everyone knows Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers).
But after reading about his background and accomplishments, I wanted to know…how did he become the man he was?
And then I found a copy of one of his letters listing ten books that influenced him.
Here’s the list.
So I’ve been checking them out and now I’m on number #8.
You can read my first blog here
Ubiquitous: existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time.
When I was trying to figure out why Shakespeare was such an influence over Rogers, it became obvious that Shakespeare’s works, quotes, themes…are everywhere. How else can you explain that the book I picked up to read last week, One Thousand White Women, featured an army captain that was a “student of the Bard”? Sure, you could chalk it up to coincidence but I don’t think so.
Renee Ann Smith (globalstudentnetwork.com) said that “Shakespeare’s themes still resonate today. His plays delve into the issues of love, loss, treachery, honor, tenderness, anger, despair, jealousy, contempt, fear, courage, and wonder. They raise questions of morality, politics, war, wealth, and death. By exploring what’s dearest to our hearts and most important to our souls, Shakespeare helps us better appreciate life.”
Reading Shakespeare is admittedly hard but I believe that when you focus hard, when the neurons are madly firing in your brain, you are more liable to gain something from what you’ve read. I know it’s easy to get bogged down by the ‘thous’ and ‘doths’ but underneath all of that funny language are lessons that a father might teach. Don’t believe me?
It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
And I bet his writing is more familiar than most people realize. You’ve probably heard these quotes:
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorry, that I shall say good night till it be morrow!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
This above all; to thine own self be true.
To be, or not to be, that is the question.
His themes and his stories have been reinvented and reimagined for the past 400 years. George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) said that he used “stuff from the Wars of the Roses” in an interview in Rolling Stone. The musical West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet. The sisters in Harry Potter are based on the three witches in Macbeth.
So why did Fred Rogers say that he was inspired by the works of Shakespeare?
I would propose two answers.
First, he clearly appreciated reading stories with complexity and layers—as evidenced by other books on his list.
Secondly, it wouldn’t surprise me if, by reading Shakespeare, Rogers was able to come up with ideas for his own show. Now, I’m not saying the King Friday XIII was based on Hamlet! But if you look at the themes that Shakespeare wrote about: love, anger, jealously, fear…you will see a list of emotions that Rogers taught about. After all….
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…
Rogers was an actor with a purpose. He wanted to teach the children of the world some important lessons and what better idea then to to take ideas from works that have survived the test of time.
In his words…
We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.
Was he successful?
If we were to judge Rogers by his own standard of success, I would say YES.
There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.
Fred Rogers was a ordained Presbyterian minister so I’d be really surprised if the Bible wasn’t on his list of influential books but why are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible listed separately? (I’ve asked an expert for help with this one)
When the Three Rivers Shakespeare Theatre closed, The Pittsburg Classic Theatre was formed in order to give local artists a chance to participate in classic works. In October 2017, Romeo and Juliet were performed in Oakland--in the very studio that hosted the production of Mister Roger's Neighborhood from 1968-2001. I have a feeling Rogers would have approved.