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Shakespeare’s Birthday

April 16th 2021| Michael Mountford

Shakespeare’s Birthday

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in April 1564. The exact date of his birth is not recorded, but it is most often celebrated around the world on the 23rd of April.

Shakespeare’s baptism is recorded in the Parish Register at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 26th April 1564. Baptisms typically took place within three days of a new arrival, and parents were instructed by the Prayer Book to ensure that their children were baptised no later than the first Sunday after birth. This means that it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was born any earlier than the previous Sunday, the 23rd of April. Given that three days would be a reasonable interval between birth and baptism, the 23rd of April has therefore come to be celebrated as his birthday. 

Shakespeare also died on the 23rd of April; in 1616, when he was 52 years of age.

On Shakespeare’s monument, still standing inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, we read that he died on April 23rd. His gravestone, below the monument, does not bear his name, but was believed to be Shakespeare’s from at least 1656, and is the first in a row which commemorates other members of his family. His gravestone reads, ”Good friend for Jesus sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here, Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Classroom Display

If you’re looking for some inspiration to help make learning more fun and engaging for kids in their own time, why not try and a splash of creativity to a spare section of the classroom and make a dedicated display area where the children can pin up their favourite pieces of work all to do with the topic of William Shakespeare and his various works.

Bard Bake Off

Shakespeare’s lifetime saw a flurry of culinary oddities grace the tables of both nobility and civilians alike. It wasn’t uncommon to see such surprises as hedgehogs, fish pies, and even fried peacock appear at court before Queen Elizabeth. Thankfully, those recipes have somewhat died down in the 21st century, but a lot of what The Bard described in his poems and plays have been reinvigorated for the modern-day.

1. Shrewsbury Cakes

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and ale?

Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night

Using culinary references historians believe the cakes Sir Toby was talking about were Shrewsbury Cakes. They were round cakes, flavoured with rose or sometimes lemon. In the book, ‘The Compleat Cook‘ written in 1658, there’s a recipe for Shrewsbury Cakes that included flavouring the cake with Rose Water.

2. Marchpane

The forerunner of modern-day marzipan, this edible treat was used to make ornate centrepieces at events. In Romeo and Juliet, the First Servant sings its praises:

Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate.
Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane; and, as thou lovest me,
let the porter let in Susan Grindstone and Nell.

First Servant – Romeo & Juliet – Act I Scene V

Marchpane was a popular dessert item, often involving almonds ground into flour, made into a paste, and used as a kind of pie with various fruits.

3. Sallet

Sallet is another spelling for salad. It is mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays three times, with the most favorable review of sallet coming from Jack Cade in Henry VI Part I:

I climbed into this garden, to see if I can eat grass, or pick a sallet another while, which is not amiss to cool a man’s stomach this hot weather. And I think this word “sallet” sallet, my brainpan had been cleft with a brown bill; and, many a time, when I have been dry and bravely marching, it hath served me instead of a quart pot to drink il and now the word “sallet’ must serve me to feed on.

Jack Cade – Henry VI Part 1 – Act IV Scene 10

Another word spelling for “Salad,” sallet was used for a variety of dishes, but one that was particularly popular was salmon sallet to be fixed on the days Queen Elizabeth required everyone to eat fish. It was made by mixing onions, violets, and salmon to make a “salmon sallet.”

4. Warden Pies

Made with brick hard pears, called Warden pears, these pies were open face tarts. They were often colored with spices to make the food bright, which was a Tudor era favorite. This need to make sure the pie was brightly colored is echoed in the direction of the Clown from The Winter’s Tale when he declares:

I must have saffron to colour the warden pies

Clown – Winter’s Tale – Act IV Scene 3

The Warden pears are even thought to have been part of soldier’s rations for the troops at the Battle of Agincourt, the battle featured in Shakespeare’s Henry V.

5. Periwinkles

In the UK, Periwinkles are a type of snail that lives on the coast, attaching itself to rocks and ships and other flat surfaces where they can eat the algae that grow there. It’s a common snack across parts of Spain and France as well.

Of a snail!

Orlando in As You Like It

For Shakespeare, these were likely cooked up and served as a kind of snack.

Resources

Below are a handful of our new resources which are great ways to help celebrate William Shakespeare’s Birthday!

Click the link here to see all of our resources that we have created in order to help you teach all about St George’s Day.

Shakespeare Knowledge Organiser
Shakespeare Info Text And Comprehension
Shakespearean Dictionary
Phrases By Shakespeare

Have a Great Day!

I hope you all have a fun day celebrating William Shakespeare’s Birthday.

Make sure to tag us on social media with any photos from the day 🙂

If you have any great teaching ideas for this topic, feel free to comment below (they might even get added to the topic calendar!)

View all posts by: Michael Mountford
Categories: Topic Calendar
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