Sunday, April 26, 2009

William, it was really nothing.

According to lore, William Shakspeare would have been 445 three days ago, having been born April 23, 1564, a day which just happens to be that of England's patron Saint George. Don't believe it. The facts as we know them are well laid out by S. Schoenbaum in Shakespeare's Lives
The parish registers of Holy Trinity record the baptism of the Shakespeare's first son, William, on 26 April 1564: 'Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere'. (Oxford UP, 1993): 7–8.
Beyond that we can only speculate that he was born in the week prior to the 26th starting on the 25th. Seeking to connect England's national author by birth to its national Saint is sheer wishful thinking. Any student of Shakespeare knows such myth creation would offend him to the very quick.


Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end,
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
Crookèd eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
  And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
  Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

—William Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Sonnets ed. Stephen Booth (Yale UP, 1977)

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