Today we celebrate the birthday of the iconic playwright, William Shakespeare! Our very own resident Shakespeare-nut, Mags, has penned a captivating blog post that delves into the mystery of how we know the date of the Bard’s birth. Enjoy!
(All photo’s you see in this blog are from Mags’ last adventure to Stratford in 2019)
How do we know Shakespeare’s birthday?
The exact date of William Shakespeare’s birth in Stratford upon Avon to John and Mary Shakespeare was not recorded but it is most often celebrated around the world on April 23.
There is a record of Shakespeare’s baptism on Wednesday, April 26, 1564, in the Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church which was the Shakespeare’s local church.
Back then baptisms took place within three days of a baby being born. The Common Prayer Book that John and Mary followed also instructed those baptisms took place no later than the first Sunday after the birth.
So, with a bit of scholarly detective work, it seems unlikely William was born any earlier than the previous Sunday which was April 23. Taking into account the three-day reasonable interval between birth and baptism, 23 April has therefore become to be celebrated as his birthday.
Did Shakespeare die on his birthday?
It is thought Shakespeare also died on 23 April; in 1616, when he was 52 years of age.
Shakespeare’s burial is recorded in Stratford’s parish register on 25 April 1616.
We do not know the cause of Shakespeare’s death.
The Shakespeare’s monument, inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, states that he died on 23 April. His gravestone, below the monument, does not bear his name, but was believed to be Shakespeare’s from at least 1656, and is the first in a row that commemorates other members of his family.
His gravestone reads, ‘Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To digg the dust encloased heare, Blest by the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones’.
The Bard of England’s birth and death dates coincide with the celebration of the patron saint of England – St George which had been commemorated on April 23 since the beginning of the 15th Century.
By Mags Delaney-Moffatt