On Wednesday, the Library of Congress rung in William Shakespeare’s birthday with a celebration worthy of a standing ovation at the Globe Theater. Actors from the Shakespeare Theater Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University presented scenes from “Macbeth,” “Cymbeline,” “The Tempest,” Richard III” and “Julius Caesar.” (My own 10th grade recitation of Marc Anthony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech – which I can still do to some degree – probably would have been more worthy of a thrown rotten tomato.)
This annual celebration is one of the highlights of the Library’s literary year and always attracts a large crowd.
The Bard’s birthday is actually observed on April 23, but it’s not really known if that date is accurate. What is known is that William was baptized on April 26, 1564, at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Religious custom at the time required a child to be baptized on the nearest Sunday or other holy day following the birth, unless there was a legitimate reason not to. April 23 was actually a Sunday, with the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist following on the 25th. However, scholars have noted that St. Mark’s Day was considered unlucky, and superstition may have stopped the Shakespeares from baptizing their son at that time. Also, the Bard died on April 23, 1616, making for a rather attractive symmetry for biographers.