Monday, April 23, 2007

celebrating Shakespeare's 443rd birthday

Shakespeare died 391 years ago. The symmetry of his birth/death dates is poetic. The baptismal register of the Holy Trinity parish church in Stratford, England (Not Canada!) shows this entry for April 26, 1564:

Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare.

But assuming she had the kid a couple of days earlier--enh--imprecise at best, but, traditionally, April 23, that is today--St George's Day, has been Shakespeare's accepted birthday.

The house on Henley Street in Stratford, owned by William's father, John, is "accepted" as Shakespeare's birth place.

Not that I have ever visited this tourist trap. However, the reality is that no one really knows when my personal god was born, NOR can they substantially argue that he wasn't actually Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford (I actually got a new bio of him last week on sale at Borders! sweet! guess what i am doing today)

According to the Book of Common Prayer, it was required that babies be baptized on the nearest Sunday or holy day following their birth, unless the parents had a legit excuse. (like they had to make gloves or reconnoiter with Aliens) As Dennis Kay proposes in his book --
If Shakespeare was indeed born on Sunday, April 23, the next feast day would have been St. Mark's Day on Tuesday the twenty-fifth. and mebbe they didn't go into town because it seemed ominous--shit sometimes it snows in April, maybe the roads were bad

There might well have been some reasonable cause -- or perhaps, as it has been suggested, St. Mark's Day was held to be unlucky, & as it had been before the Reformation, when altars and crucifixes used to be routinely draped in black cloth, and when some seers had claimed to see in the churchyard-- the doomed spirits of those who died in that past year. . . .but that does not help us explain why the christening was held on the 26th.

Speaking of medieval church yards...Yew trees (Mmmm longbows..... No wait.. I am off topic)

Anywho--No doubt Shakespeare's true birthday will remain a mystery forever. Only his mom knows fer sure & I'll bet she forgot about 15 years later. But the popular assumption among we geeks is that the Bard was born on the same day of the month that he died--well it lends an esoteric blip to the missing details of Shakespeare's life. He died on 23 April 1616 at the age of 52, prly of the plague--or just...being old.

Seriously--Edward deVere--it makes more sense....

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