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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On this day, Shakespeare ...

On 26 April 1564, William Shakespeare, playwright and poet, was baptized.

The deed was probably done by the parish priest, John Bretchgirdle (or Bracegirdle), in Holy Trinity, the parish church of Stratford upon Avon, on 26 April 1564,

William was the third child of Richard Shakespeare, husbandsman of Snitterfield, near Stratford (d. 1561) and Mary Arden (d. 1608).

It seems appropriate that the first of many gaps in the records of Shakespeare's life should be the exact date of his birth, but that is not as easy as it sounds. He was probably born sometime betwen 21 and 23 April 1564, given the 1559 prayer book's instructions to parents on the subject of baptisms.

But, ever since Joseph Greene, an eighteenth-century Stratford curate, informed the scholar George Steevens that Shakespeare was born on 23 April (though with no apparent documentation), and Steevens adopted that date in his 1773 edition of Shakespeare, it has been fun to assume that Shakespeare was born on St George's day.  Which means that England's patron saint and the birth of the 'national poet' can be celebrated on the same day.

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