This week marks the 452nd anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare as well as the 400th anniversary of his death. Both of these monumental events occurred in the English village of Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare’s life came full circle before his death in 1616.
In his flaming youth, however, Shakespeare took off for London in excitement to pursue a life in the theater. The busy city was a brave new world for this country lad, but Shakespeare didn’t lie low. Besides becoming a well-known actor, he wrote dozens of magnificent plays and more than 150 poems and other works, leading countless bedazzled readers ever since to call him the world’s greatest playwright and poet, the be-all and end-all of great English literature!
Others are more critical, saying it’s almost laughable to think that someone with a grammar-school education could have written such majestic works. In their mind’s eye, to credit it all to one man is too much of a good thing, and they are deeply suspicious.
But disproving Shakespeare’s authorship has been a wild-goose chase so far. And without such proof, his supporters refuse to budge an inch in their belief that Shakespeare wrote each and every word credited to him. But the naked truth is, nobody knows for sure. Like much of Shakespeare’s life, the answer seems to have melted into thin air.
Maybe the truth will out someday. If so, the discovery could occur at Washington’s Folger Shakespeare Library, where scholars from around the world come to study the Bard of Avon. “Bard” is another word for poet.
The first major collection of Shakespeare’s work was printed in 1623. As good luck would have it, the Folger library has 82 of the 233 copies known to exist.
Shakespeare added more than 1,700 new words and phrases to the English language — many still in use. Computer searches have found that he may not have invented all of them, but he certainly made them popular. Want to try a zany challenge? We’ve hidden 30 of his words and phrases in this article. How many can you find? This game is not for the gloomy or faint-hearted. You could wind up in such a pickle you’ll be puking! Here’s a hint to help you get started: Nine of those words and phrases are in this paragraph. So hurry, for goodness’ sake! Time’s a-wasting and the game’s afoot!
To find the answers, click here.
Here’s what’s going on at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington this week:
● Ask your teacher whether the class can text a birthday message to Shakespeare on Wednesday or Thursday. Keep it short (20 words max) and be sure to include your school name and state. Text your greeting to 414-436-5437, and the library will share it via social media.
● Share some cake April 24 at the library’s annual birthday party for Will. There will be stage combat and other performances, crafts and scavenger hunts. This free event runs from noon to 4 p.m. at the library, 201 East Capitol Street SE.
● Write a sonnet (Will wrote 154 of these 14-line poems). For grade 3 and up. Get details at folger.edu/annual-sonnet-challenge.
● Turn on C-SPAN2 at noon Saturday for a special story hour celebrating the Bard.