Shakespeare’s birthday

William Shakespeare was baptised on 26 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616. His actual date of birth remains unknown, but is traditionally observed on 23 April, which is also Saint George’s Day. As he died on 23 April, it has a nice symmetry about it.[1] This year is also 400 years since he died – why do we love anniversaries so much? I don’t propose to try to answer that!

My small contribution to this much written about topic, is to mention an exhibition I saw last month when I was in Auckland. It is called ‘Shakespeare in his time’ and is on at Auckland Public Library until 19 June. In it are copies of the first, second, third and fourth folios… among other items such as his poetry, the work of contemporaries such as Ben Jonson, some of the sources for his plays such as Montaigne’s essays and Holinshed’s chronicles, references to the politics of the time such as religious controversies and the gunpowder plot… and so on. There were also a few free postcards.

The postcards are woodcuts from the 1617 book ‘The Shepheards Calendar’, Edmund Spenser (Published in London by Mathew Lownes). They feature April, August and December.

If you are in Auckland and interested in old books or Shakespeare it is worth seeing.

While on the subject of Shakespeare’s birthday, it brought to mind a Shakespeare birthday book I acquired many years ago and wrote friends and family birth dates in. I have to admit I have seldom looked at the quotes opposite! They don’t appear to be the more well known quotes…

I wrote a post about Shakespeare and Millais last year, and this Public Domain Review article has more examples of Shakespeare’s plays interpreted in art.

I can also recommend the free online course ‘Shakespeare and his world’ that started this week (I did it last year).

I read one or two of his plays when I was at secondary school, and perhaps saw a film or two … but that was about it until a few years ago when, with a couple of friends, we started working our way through his plays. Some are deservedly ‘great’ but some are … well, not great (‘Cymbelline’ comes to mind, for example).


[1] Wikipedia entry on William Shakespeare: accessed 23 April 2016.


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