“I would I had some flowers of the spring”
Today, 23 April, is William Shakespeare’s Birthday. I’ve already been down to Holy Trinity Church where he was baptised and buried to leave a little posy of spring flowers from my garden.
In line with health restrictions there is to be no celebration in 2021 but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to join in with. The Official Celebrations are in the form of a video featuring in which the main organisations, and include Mr Shakespeare at the Birthplace and the laying of wreaths at Holy Trinity Church. Wreaths from this recording are still to be seen on the grass near to Shakespeare’s monument. The video can be watched from 11 am.
Later on today, the Shakespeare Birthday Lecture, organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, is being delivered online by Professor Lena Orlin. The subject is “Shakespeare’s Life Portrait in Holy Trinity Church” so could hardly be more appropriate. This will be live at 4pm UK time, and tickets are £5. The Shakespeare Birthday Lecture Tickets, Fri 23 Apr 2021 at 16:00 | Eventbrite
For its April meeting, the Shakespeare Club of Stratford-upon-Avon asked its members to share their memories of the Birthday. This was made available online and now is attached to the news page of the Club’s website. Shakespeare Club of Stratford (stratfordshakespeareclub.org)
For me, as you’ll find if you watch the Club’s video, the taking of flowers to the church has always been the most meaningful part of the Celebrations and I’m delighted to have been able to carry out this simple act today. Most people are not so lucky but one advantage of being locked down is that so many more people can watch the Celebrations. We’re all hoping that the traditional Birthday Celebrations will be back next year.
The RSC’s production of The Winter’s Tale, originally scheduled for 2020, is being shown at 7pm on BBC4 on Sunday, 25 April. While it’s not the same as live performance, there is a bonus in that a much larger audience can access it this play. Good is to be found even in hard times, as Shakespeare indicates in this speech by the banished Duke in As You Like It.
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference; as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery; these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
Have a happy day, and from the comfort of your own safe space raise a glass for William Shakespeare’s birthday.