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April 23, 2018

It’s William Shakespeare’s Birthday!

Please join us in wishing William Shakespeare a very Happy Birthday! Yep, it is the late, great bard’s birthday today. Traditionally observed on 23 April, it is a chance to celebrate the life and works of this most influential playwright. The plays he wrote, although now over 400 years old, continue to be considered some of the greatest English language literature ever created. That’s why we continue to study them today!

So although Shakespeare’s name may already be extremely familiar to us, how much do we really know about him? Can this household name still surprise us? In honour of Shakespeare’s birthday, we want to share a whole bunch of fascinating facts about the man behind the quill.

Shakespeare’s birthday

  • While in modern times we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on 23 April, in actual fact nobody knows for sure on exactly which day he was born! What we do know, is that young William Shakespeare was baptised (at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon) on 26 April 1564. As baptisms usually took place within three days of a child being born, it’s safe to say that he was probably born no earlier than 23 April 1564.
  • That means he was born on a Sunday. How many of you know which day of the week you were born on?
  • Lots of other famous historical figures were also born in 1564, including the Italian astronomer, Galileo Galilei, and another famous playwright, Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe is said to have greatly influenced Shakespeare and some people even think that some of Shakespeare’s plays might actually have been written by Marlowe!
  • Coincidentally, 23 April is also the date when Shakespeare died. This happened 52 years later in 1616. 52 years old may sound young to us, but way back in the 17th century the average life expectancy was only about 35 years old.

Shakespeare's birthday pexels

Shakespeare’s works

  • Shakespeare was a busy man, and is believed to have written 37 different plays in total. How many can you name off the top of your head?
  • These plays are usually divided into three categories: tragedy (like Romeo & Juliet), history (like Henry V) and comedy (like A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
  • One of the most memorable literary devices used in Shakespeare’s plays is the soliloquy. This is the act of a character thinking out loud to themselves for an extended period of time, often when they’re on their own. It’s a pretty handy tool because it lets the audience in on exactly what that character is thinking and feeling. Perhaps the most famous Shakespeare soliloquy is the “To be, or not to be” monologue in Hamlet, where Prince Hamlet is debating the merit of life after tragedy strikes within his family.
  • Amazingly, Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into every major living language (including Klingon!) and continue to be performed today all over the world.
  • One of Shakespeare’s final plays was The Tempest, which is set on a remote island and influenced heavily by magic and trickery. Some people think that the main character, sorcerer Prospero, is actually a self-portrait by Shakespeare. After all, Prospero does liken himself to a playwright and ask the audience for applause at the end. What do you think?

The other side of Shakespeare

  • It’s not just plays Shakespeare wrote. He also wrote over 150 long poems (called sonnets) on a range of topics like time, politics, art and mortality. But he most frequently wrote about love and this is what his sonnets are most often remembered for.
  • Oh, and he was an actor too! He continued acting even after his works had gained popularity, and it is even thought that he may have acted in some of his own plays.

Shakespeare's birthday pexels

Silly Shakespeare

  • William Shakespeare’s name can be reshuffled to read “I am a weakish speller”. It’s probably not nice to bring that up on his birthday though!
  • Speaking of spelling, there are actually over 80 variations recorded for the spelling of Shakespeare’s name! Even the man himself couldn’t seem to decide how to spell it, and some signatures read “Willm Shaksp”, “William Shakspeare” and “Willm Shakspere”.
  • The longest word in any Shakespeare play is “honorificabilitudinitatibus”. Phew! Apparently it’s a Latin word that means “invincible glorious honourableness”. Try and work that into your conversation with friends this lunch break.
  • There are plenty of words we use today that we can thank Shakespeare for. Did you know that the terms “eyeball”, “scuffle” and “bedazzle” were all first used by Shakespeare? In fact, he has been credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing almost 3,000 additional words to the English language.

All in all, Shakespeare is a pretty impressive figure and continues to be a huge part of our literary history. We wish you a very happy birthday, Shakespeare (or should that be Shakspere?) and long may we continue to admire your honorificabilitudinitatibus!

If you’d like the bring the magic of Shakespeare alive in your school, check out our dedicated workshops. Delve into the plots, characters, twists and turns with a One Day Drama workshop, or see his work performed on stage right in your school hall with a contemporary Shakespeare school performance.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Love the One Day Creative team x

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