Letter: Happy birthday, William Shakespeare
Shakespeare noted “The uncertain glory of an April day” in “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” but there is no uncertainty about the glory of his April 23 birthday in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Aren’t we lucky he survived the great plague that year! A quarter of the town’s population did not. Where would we be without his plays, poems, and the eternal mysteries surrounding his life?
Fascination with Wills only increases. Every generation shapes his genius in their unique fashion. But no matter how flippantly outrageous the plays can be presented on stage, the substance shines through. He just cannot be diminished. The plague affected Shakespeare in many ways. Whenever it reappeared, the London theatres were closed and the actors took to the road to entertain in remote reaches of England’s countryside. Shakespeare’s three sisters died of the plague along with many of those around him.
He may have written much of his sublime poetry when forced to stay in when the plague raged. He survived for 52 years in turbulent times, leaving us with arguably the best plays ever written and poetry that arguably has never been bested. So even in the midst of our “world viral pandemic” we can gratefully take a moment to celebrate the birthday of the world’s most enduring poet.
He is an inspiration that no matter the calamities, good things can spring up around them. Even in this lockdown, let’s wander from its confines to look at a lovely line from sonnet 98: “In the spring when proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”
Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare, so glad you survived the plague!