He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, and reported the following:
On Page 99, I look at the speech in Henry IV, Part 1, where Hotspur mentions starlings.Learn more about the book and author at Stephen Marche's website.
I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him
To keep his anger still in motion.
In 1890, a pharmaceutical manufacturer named Eugene Schiefflin decided that he was going to release every bird mentioned in Shakespeare to the new world, and because of this speech introduced starlings to America. From the sixty birds he released, the starling population has since swollen to 200 million, wreaking havoc on the native bluebird and Flicker populations. So what I'm looking at on page 99 of the book is a good encapsulation of the book as a whole: I'm trying to see, in the lines, the power that Shakespeare had over the world, but not through the vague categories of ideas or attitudes, but in real material terms. Why did Shakespeare inspire people to do nutty things like introduce new birds to whole Continents?