LONDON, April 24 (PTI): After a long Covid lockdown-induced gap, the birthday celebrations for William Shakespeare returned to his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon this weekend, when the town in the West Midlands of England marks the great English playwright’s 458th birth anniversary.
The grand birthday celebrations for Shakespeare, who was born in April 1565, are taking place over Saturday and Sunday, with a traditional celebratory procession back in full force for residents and visitors. Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon, Councillor Kevin Taylor, expressed his delight at the town’s annual celebrations for its most famous resident returning in full swing.
“With the event outright cancelled in 2020 and online-only in 2021, Stratford has had to wait a while for the celebrations to return. We’ve really missed celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday over the last two years, so we’re set to mark it in style this year,” said Taylor.
On Saturday, the town witnessed the full procession with the Air Training Corps band, schoolchildren, flag unfurling ceremony and a so-called “Mr Shakespeare” with his quill. On Sunday, the quill is transferred to Holy Trinity Church and placed in the hand of Shakespeare above his grave by the head boy of King Edward VI School, William Warner.
The celebrations follow the unveiling of the restored David Garrick Shakespeare statue by British “acting royalty” Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh on Friday, when the duo also received the Freedom of the Town honour.
“What better way to mark the return of this annual Stratford tradition than by two Shakespearean masters coming to the place of his birth and unveiling his most famous statue,” said the Mayor.
Paul Workman, who has led the town’s processions as William Shakespeare since 2017, once again held up the traditional quill to mark the unfurling of the “birthday banner” and an explosion of confetti cannons in Bridge Street.
“Shakespeare’s Birthday is my favourite time of year, so to miss the full celebrations for two years in a row was such a shame not only for me but for the town as well,” said Workman, ahead of the event.
“Although it was held online last year, celebrating the Bard’s big day is just better for all when done in person, so I can’t wait for the event to come around again in April. The great man once wrote that ‘all the world’s a stage’ – so I am really looking forward to playing my part properly and entertaining my audience after a long wait,” he said.
The exact date of Shakespeare’s birth is not recorded, but it is most often celebrated around the world on April 23. The writer’s baptism is recorded in the Parish Register at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 26 April 1564.
Baptisms typically took place within three days of a new arrival, and parents were instructed by the Prayer Book to ensure that their children were baptised no later than the first Sunday after birth. This means that it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was born any earlier than the previous Sunday, which was April 23.
Given that three days would be a reasonable interval between birth and baptism, that’s the date which has come to be celebrated as his birthday.
Shakespeare also died on April 23, in 1616, when he was 52 years of age. He is known the world over as a prolific writer during the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages of British theatre, sometimes called the English Renaissance or the Early Modern Period. He is known to have penned 38 plays, two narrative poems, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems.