William Shakespeare: 23 April 1564-23 April 1616
Celebration is going on in many places to mark William Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday this week, (he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and children at that time were usually baptized three days after birth) and the 400th anniversary of his death.
In fact, this Saturday, April 23, 2016 is World Shakespeare Day!
When I was in a Shakespeare class in high school, we had a HUGE birthday party for Shakespeare with British food and drink (rather like a high tea). A month beforehand, we had each drawn the name of a fellow student for which we were to make a handmade gift. I remember hemming handkerchiefs in pink embroidery thread with the initials “M.A.” for one student, and I still have the floral wreath strung with ribbons (meant to be worn on the head) hanging on my bedroom wall…although I don’t remember which young man made it for me (or more likely, his mother made it on his behalf, LOL).
So how is the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard being celebrated?
Celebrations in Great Britain
- Shakespeare 400
- Shakespeare’s England
- Shakespeare 400 at the Globe
- Britain Celebrates Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary of His Death (New York Post article)
- Shakespeare Theatre Association
- Look! They’ve even have a map with renamed London Tube stations after Shakespeare’s plays and characters.
In the U.S.
So let’s celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday this week in our homes.
Talk Like Shakespeare! Have a Talk Like Shakespeare Day (or even just an hour, if that’s all you can handle): (This site also links to some hilarious Shakespeare Comic Relief with David Tennant and Catherine Tate of Doctor Who fame).
Shakespeare Teatime/Meal! Gather around the table with scones and jam and some Earl Grey tea (or, if you want to prepare authentic Elizabethan fare, check out this site and read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud. You can also find Shakespeare sonnet apps for your smart phone. (Parents may wish to pre-read the sonnet choices beforehand as some get a bit too, um, romantic….)
Shakespeare Character Party Game! Write the names of famous Shakespeare characters on 3X5 cards with a Sharpie (pick characters that the kids know) and without letting the person see, tape a card to each person’s back. Then each person asks “yes-no” type questions of other players to try to determine which character’s name is on his/her back. When someone guesses their character, tape a different character to his/her back. Several rounds may be played, depending on the number of players. (Sample questions: Am I male or female? Is my father dead? Is a play named after me?)
Shakespeare Copywork with Quills! Make quills from feathers (either dip feathers into ink or insert the innards of a ball point pen into the bottom of a feather and wrap with florist tape if needed; see this link: Instructables) and copy some favorite Shakespeare quotations or insults onto parchment (or regular) paper. (Barnes and Noble carries a good selection of quills and calligraphy ink.)
Shakespeare Trivia! Play some Shakespeare trivia games on Sporcle: Shakespeare Trivia Home Page such as “Shakespeare vs. Batman Quotes,” “Shakespeare Threats & Insults,” and “Complete the Shakespeare Quote.” (Note: these quizzes are *challenging*–I missed quite a few!)
Shakespeare Monologues! Read some of Shakespeare’s famous monologues aloud dramatically, perhaps even in costume. Here’s a site with a listing of some of the best single-person speeches, one list for men and one for women. Try performing them for family members and/or friends or at a co-op!
Shakespeare Scenes! Perform a Shakespeare scene as a puppet show or act out a scene in costume; either memorize parts or make copies of the scene for all the actors. No Sweat Shakespeare has some modern-language scripts for your family to practice and perhaps even produce!
Shakespeare at the Movies! Watch your favorite Shakespeare play on film (mine is Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing). Check your local library or Netflix for some excellent titles, and the International Movie DataBase includes some helpful parents guides with advisory content for you along with ratings and information on most film versions.
Shakespeare Documentary! For older kids, check out Michael Woods’ in-depth documentary In Search of Shakespeare which first aired on PBS in 2004. Both the DVD and the companion book should be readily available through most public libraries.
Shakespeare Live!! Best yet, see a live Shakespeare play as soon as possible. Check out college/university performances near you as they’re usually much less expensive than professional productions.
So, Happy 452nd Birthday, William Shakespeare,
(and 400th Deathday)
from your friends at Brave Writer!
“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”
~Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
April and May are Shakespeare Months here at Brave Writer. The Shakespeare Family Workshop provides a multi-sensory approach to the study of Shakespeare and his works. A few informal writing assignments will be provided for families to do together or separately. The workshop class is an ideal choice for families unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s life and works.