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Shakespeare’s Birthday: What the Bard Still Has to Offer

By Periscope

Shakespeare's birthday is April 23

Is this the face that launched a thousand acting careers?

Monday, April 23, marks the 448th anniversary of the birthday and the 396th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, the English language’s most widely known poet and dramatist. As such, media from around the globe are remembering and invoking the Globe Theatre artist.

 

Let the Bardolatry commence!

 

Shakespeare, in a nutshell.

Born in Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 April, 1564, Shakespeare married young, at 18, before embarking on his career as a playwright and actor with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in London just a few years later. He appears to have divided his time between Stratford and London. Little is known about Shakespeare’s private life, and but he is credited with the authorship of 38 of the world’s most known, most performed plays, and 154 of its most recited sonnets. He died on 23 April 1616, having enjoyed a solid, if unexceptional reputation in his lifetime. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the world re-discovered Shakespeare’s works and promoted the man to the lofty position that he now occupies.

 

Not everyone believes the ill-educated son of a glover actually wrote all of the plays that he is given credit for – the screenwriters behind last year’s Anonymous, for example.

Shakespeare and racism: What the Bard can teach us.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writing at The Independent, noted the curious fact that Shakespeare’s birthday is St. George’s Day, England’s patron saint who has been in latter years associated with anti-immigrant groups: “Both symbolise a global and expansive sensibility and rebut those other characteristics one associates with England – twitchiness, arrogance, snobbery and supremacy.” Shakespeare’s play often contain an element of racial tension – Othello, Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus – but the picture is complicated, amd what it says about England even more so. “Of all the tribes of Europe, England is the most promiscuous, culturally and carnally and has been since it began to take shape…. I hope the English raise good cheer to that England today and its greatest son, Will.”

Shakespeare’s plays: America’s pre-eminent tech university, MIT, was the first to put the complete works of Shakespeare online, from the much-maligned Titus Andronicus to the much-performed Hamlet and the much-loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

Shakespeare and BP?

Actors, playwrights and theater directors came together this weekend to denounce the Shakespeare Festival’s continued relationship with BP, the oil company responsible for the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil leak two years ago. “While the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill continues to devastate ecosystems and communities, and the highly polluting extraction of tar sands oil brings us rapidly closer to the point of no return from climate change, we feel that BP has no place in arts sponsorship,” they wrote in a letter to The Guardian.

 

What do you know about the Bard’s plays? The Huffington Post’s (slow-loading) quiz reveals all.

Celebrating Shakespeare, Stratford style.

In Shakespeare’s time, his hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon, was (and in many ways still is) a small country town with not much more than a river and lot of open field to recommend it. The Guardian dredged up a piece from 23 April 1932, reflecting on Stratford’s transformation into Will-a-palooza HQ: “For many years – about a hundred and eighty – after Shakespeare’s death no one took thought to celebrate the poet; then the history of the town became jubilees all the way, and the houses and streets that Shakespeare knew have looked upon successive pageants and displays, fireworks, and emblems, and gatherings innumerable.”


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