Shakespeare’s Birth

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Shakespeare's Birth-Room. Where 'the greatest genius in all of literature first saw the light.' From The Shakespeare Country by John Leyland. The baptismal register of the Holy Trinity parish church, in Stratford, shows the following entry for April 26, 1564: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakespeare. The actual date of Shakespeare’s birth is not known, but, traditionally, April 23, St George’s Day, has been Shakespeare’s accepted birthday, and a house on Henley Street in Stratford, owned by William’s father, John, is accepted as Shakespeare’s birth place. However, the reality is that no one really knows when the great dramatist was born. According to The Book of Common Prayer, it was required that a child be baptized on the nearest Sunday or holy day following the birth, unless the parents had a legitimate excuse. As Dennis Kay proposes in his book Shakespeare:

If Shakespeare was indeed born on Sunday, April 23, the next feast day would have been St. Mark’s Day on Tuesday the twenty-fifth. There might well have been some cause, both reasonable and great — or perhaps, as has been suggested, St. Mark’s Day was still held to be unlucky, as it had been before the Reformation, when altars and crucifixes used to be draped in black cloth, and when some claimed to see in the churchyard the spirits of those doomed to die in that year. . . .but that does not help to explain the christening on the twenty-sixth (54).

No doubt Shakespeare’s true birthday will remain a mystery forever. But the assumption that the Bard was born on the same day of the month that he died lends an exciting esoteric highlight to the otherwise mundane details of Shakespeare’s life. References Bentley, Gerald Eades. Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook. New Haven: Yale UP, 1968. Brooke, Tucker. Shakespeare of Stratford. New Haven: Yale UP, 1926. Kay, Dennis. Shakespeare. New York: Quill, 1992. Rowse, A.L. Shakespeare the Man. London: Macmillan, 1973.