April 23, 2005

Happy birthday Bill

This date in 1564 is said to be the birth date of William Shakespeare, the greatest author in the history of English literature. In fact, the earliest record of the fact is his baptismal record on April 26. However, since infants were baptized soon after birth, tradition has settled on this day as the Bard's birthday.

Ironically, April 23 is also the date of Shakespeare's death. His will has caused scholars some consternation and controversy, principally because it mentions his wife, Anne Hathaway, only once, and that to leave her the "second best bed." Read anachronistically this seems petty, but it's important to remember that at the time she was entitled by law to a considerable portion of the estate and residence for life in their house, New Place. Also, the second-best bed was probably the one they slept in (the best bed was reserved for guests), so it was a sentimental gesture. Some scholars disagree - especially, one may presume, the ones who think he was gay.

Shakespeare is buried at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. On his grave are the words (the spelling of which which I have updated here):

Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.