William Shakespeare’s birthday is traditionally celebrated April 23, though the date of his birth was not recorded. But because he was baptized April 26, 1564, which often happened when babies were three days old, his birth is celebrated on the 23rd, which, coincidentally, is also believed to be the date on which he died 52 years later.
Why’s dude so famous?
a student once asked me.
Because he’s perhaps the greatest writer
in the English language, I said.
The student, a lanky kid made
more for basketball than literature,
said, You call that English?
And I said, Yeah, a really old-style
English, to which he nodded,
and said, Show me.
So I went all fangirl, whipping out
a little Macbeth contemplating murder:
Is this a dagger I see before me?
A sonnet or two, a little love poetry:
I do love nothing in the world so well as you—
is not that strange?
A little philosophy from Prospero:
We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
And a full-court press from Ophelia:
We know what we are,
but know not what we may be.
And I recited and showed him
scenes from plays—Juliet panting
after Romeo, King Richard hollering for
a horse, any number of sword fights.
The student listened, he nodded,
didn’t seem enraptured.
He went away for the summer,
returning, to my surprise, to sit
in the front row of my creative
writing class, telling me he’d been
captivated by the old poet dude—
he’d watched all the movies; he
wanted to write poetry, too.
And he did, full of meter and rhyme,
though I told him he didn’t have
to do it that way. And he came
to my office after class and said,
Ma’am, I gotta rhyme!
I just gotta rhyme!
So he did, touching my old heart
with rhymes that were something
more than rap, that sang, as he said,
with the iambic and the pentameter,
among other rhythms he didn’t
even try to name.
And when he presented me with
a sonnet—14 lovely lines, a fine
rhyming couplet at the end—
written for his lady love,
I swear I got misty-eyed
listening to the young poet dude,
of whom, I had no doubt,
Will and I were both so proud.