Saturday, April 23, 2016

400 Years of Shakespeare

Today marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. This event has been marked by year-long celebrations in the appropriate places. We’re not sure of his birthday because four hundred years ago that wasn’t necessarily written down. Instead what we know is the date of his baptism, which happens to be April 26, 1564. Before the days of issuing birth certificates and Social Security Numbers before an infant left the hospital, a baptism was a much more significant life event than the birth. While we don’t know the exact date he was born, traditionally his birthday has been celebrated on April 23rd, the same as his death.

I first encountered Shakespeare when I was in what was then called junior high. This was roughly equivalent to middle school, for those of you too young to remember the term. I had an absolutely fabulous English teacher, Frank Aversano, who loved Shakespeare. I think we read five or six plays over the course of that year. Mr. Aversano was an excellent teacher, full of knowledge about Elizabethan times, and willing to explain all the obscure references so that we got the jokes. So many people think of Shakespeare as dry and boring, but he was actually quite funny—and bawdy.