‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears!’ – Celebrating National Shakespeare Day

National Shakespeare Day is celebrated all over the world on April 23rd – the day of both William Shakespeare’s birth and death.

National Shakespeare Day was an idea of Robert J. Williamson, the artistic director of the British Shakespeare Company. Over the years, the day became widely known and celebrated among the masses and now is a day used to celebrate and appreciate the life and works from the Bard of Avon. The day also coincides with Poetry Month celebrated in April.

Each year, at his birthplace Stratford-Upon-Avon, a special pageant is held. People from all over the world attend performances of Shakespeare’s plays throughout the day at The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, witness The Birthday Parade, visit the 16th century half-timbered house in which he was born and join in with the birthday celebrations.

You don’t have to visit Stratford-Upon-Avon to celebrate the day – many people take the opportunity to watch one of his popular plays, talk using Shakespearian language or even dress in attire from that era!

There are plenty of ways to celebrate Shakespeare Day such as:

  • Watching a Shakespeare-inspired movie for example Westwide Story, Ophelia or even the cult classic 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Watch live recordings of West End performances streamed online or in cinemas through companies such as National Theatre Live
  • Listen to podcasts such as BBC Radio 3’s The Shakespeare Sessions which showcases a-list casts in audio versions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, plus documentaries from the brightest minds on the bard’s life and work
  • Visit either local or national theatres to watch the various performances of his plays that continue to be showcased and adapted with plenty of fresh life pumped into them. For example, Frantic Assembly performed Othello in 2014 through the medium of physical theatre and set the play amongst gangs in a Yorkshire pub, showing there is still plenty of scope to bring a modern perspective to a Shakespearian classic

Every generation continues to be influenced by Shakespeare, even if they don’t realise it. His plots continue to inspire countless adaptations, words he coined are used in our everyday language, and his phrases continue to be spoken by the lips of millions who do not realise they are quoting Shakespeare: “cruel, only to be kind”, “the game is up”, and “a fool’s paradise” are merely a few examples of how the language of this exceptionally influential bard is still widely used today.