Today 23 April is the quadricentennial of the death of William Shakespeare. When it comes to quadricentennials, this will be one of the biggies. It’s also Talk Like Shakespeare Day – no end of linguistic possibilities in that!
The epicentre of celebrations is of course Stratford upon Avon. In a fabulously English gesture, the Head Boy from King Edward VI School, Shakespeare’s alma mater , will leave the birthplace in Henley Street and will bring the quill symbolising Shakespeare’s Legacy to the Bridge Street arena where a flag unfurling ceremony will take place. Love the emphatic use of the definite article. Thereafter, a procession will move through the town to Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried.
Th celebrations extend across the globe. Every theatre company worth its salt will stage a Shakespeare – traditional or reinterpreted. In the US, Chicago is celebrating the 400th with a range of events including the Culinary Complete Works, where 38 prominent city chefs will serve dishes based on culinary images and references in Shakespeare’s plays. And it was on the fabulous Shakespeare 400 Chicago site that I found a William Shakespeare insult generator. Woohoo. Might take them up on one of their advice – “instead of cursing try calling your tormentors jackanapers or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads”.
The Washington DC-based Folger Shakespeare Library which has 82 of the 233 known existing copies of the First Folio, an anthology of 36 Shakespeare plays published in 1623, has mounted a tour to bring a copy of the First Folio to all 50 states.
In Sydney, there’s everything from Shakespeare trivia nights to fan days, the Shakespeare for Shorties children’s program and a Sonnet Slam.
There’s no end of ways to mark the occasion. A Shakespearean map of the London Underground has even been created which replaces the names of tube stations and lines with Shakespeare-inspired alternatives, including characters from his famous plays, modern adaptations and his royal patrons Elizabeth I and James I. Of course I adore it because I love wrapping with maps.The map also features three theatres where Shakespeare plays were performed — the Globe Theatre, which has been rebuilt close to its original site next to the River Thames, and the Blackfriars and Curtain theatres, which no longer exist.
And finally…there is of course a smartphone app called ShakeSpeak which allows users to write Shakespearean-style text messages. Users type in the first few words of famous lines from the Bard’s plays and up pops the rest of the sentence – thus preventing embarrassing misquotes.
It’s not every day one is called to do a quadricentennial wrap, especially after I went early last year with my Shakespeare in Love wrap celebrating the marriage of Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway and shamelessly deploying my much loved Shakespeare ornaments. But if everyone in the world can find a new take on Shakespeare, I can too. I’ve called in the rich velvet ribbon, showcased a pinwheel as a reference to a Shakespearean flouncy collar and put to use a wonderful laser cut sample with an image of Shakespeare that I picked up at the National Stationery Show in NYC a couple of years ago. Yes the Shakespeare image is not printed – it is laser cut. My husband has tried to throw it out on multiple occasions, saying I would never use it in a hundred years (or 400 years). Ha! Truth will come to light … at the length, the truth will out.William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act II, sc. 2