Saturday is April 23rd, the day traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday. It may not be perfectly accurate but it’s close enough, as the first historical record of the man from Stratford is his baptismal record, dated April 26th, 1564.
Given the usual practices of the era, to back-date his his birth three days prior to the baptism is as good a guess as any. There’s also the bittersweet symmetry of his death date, which is known to be April 23rd, 1616.
Shakespeare was 52 years old when he died.
He’d had a successful and prosperous career, but fully half of his performed plays had not yet been published at the time of his death.
That task fell to a couple of his long-time actors and friends, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who assembled and edited all the scripts they could lay hands on and published them in 1623, in a volume we now call the First Folio.
Without the First Folio, the text of eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays would not have been preserved. We’d have no Macbeth. No Twelfth Night. No Tempest, Julius Caesar, Comedy of Errors, or As You Like It.
So: Happy birthday, dear Shakespeare, and heartfelt thanks to you both, John Heminge and Henry Condell! The legacy of your acting careers may have “melted into air, into thin air,” but your final act of friendship, duty, and editorial labor is a gift to humanity that truly endures.
The question of what creative work endures, why it endures, and how it endures is always top of mind to me, as both reader and writer. What do you think makes a work a “classic?” Is it something you strive for in your own writing? I would love to know.
Yours in storytelling,
p.s. – There’s no livestream today due to the presence of plumbers in Path of the Storyteller HQ. Instead, I’m using the time to finish work on a new course offering I think you will find essential. It’s all about writing scenes. Writing books is what writers love to talk about, but writing scenes is what we actually do when we sit down to work. The struggle to create well-structured, individual scenes that move the story forward is real. This course will break it all down into clear concepts and techniques that you can put to use in your work right away. Expect your invitation to this new offering very soon! People on the mailing list will be getting first dibs and a special offer, so make sure to sign up using the form below. You’ll be asked to confirm your subscription, too, so check your inbox for that confirmation email.