The world may be a stage, but William Shakespeare from Warwickshire didn’t flinch or shy away from his task: As Britain started to roll out the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, Mr. Shakespeare became the second person in the country to receive the vaccine.
“It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?,” Mr. Shakespeare, 81, said with a smile shortly after being vaccinated at University Hospital Coventry, in central England, just 20 miles north of where his namesake, the slightly older and more well-known poet and playwright, was born.
That one of the first recipients of the vaccine bore such a famous name — a fact that was confirmed by the National Health Service — brought surprise and lighthearted jokes at a time when Britain faces the daunting task of implementing the largest vaccination campaign in its history.
“Shakespeare gets Covid vaccine,” the BBC wrote as a headline. Shakespeare’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew” became The Taming of the Flu. And “The Gentlemen of Verona” quickly turned into The Gentlemen of Corona.
In a reference to Hamlet, one user wrote on Twitter, “If Margaret Keenan is patient 1A for the vaccine, would William Shakespeare be 2B, or not 2B …,” about the first patient to receive the vaccine, and Mr. Shakespeare, who was next in line.
Even Britain’s theaters weighed in.
Mr. Shakespeare received the shot in his left arm and wore a hospital gown and bright red socks.
Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, appeared to shed some tears on ITV as he heard the name of the first man in the country to receive the vaccine.
May Parsons, a nurse at the hospital who administered the dose to Mr. Shakespeare and Ms. Keenan, said the injections were a first step in giving more people a sense of normality. “This is really important for me knowing that they’re going to be safe, that they’re going to be protected,” Ms. Parsons told Sky News about the first recipients of the vaccine.
For the countless jokes made, though, Mr. Shakespeare’s relatives reminded everyone that much more was a stake than the ephemeral fame of “their” William Shakespeare.
“At some point he’d like to see his wife, children and grandchildren who can’t visit him at the moment,” Emily Shakespeare said on Twitter about her uncle.
“Bill is much loved,” she added in a reply to a well-wisher.
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