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Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare ... maybe

April 23, 2012|By David Ng
  • A 17th century copy of the First Folio edition of William Shakespeare's plays.
A 17th century copy of the First Folio edition of William Shakespeare's… (Matt Dunham / Associated…)

Today is the 448th birthday of William Shakespeare -- that is, if you believe the widely held assumption that the Bard was born on April 23. Like many things involving the greatest playwright in the English language, the day of his birth is shrouded in mystery.

Shakespeare is believed to have been born on this day in 1564 but there is no official record that confirms it. The future writer was baptized on April 26 and it was customary at the time for infants to be baptized three days after birth.

This much is also known: Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon to Mary Arden and John Shakespeare and he died on his birthday, on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52.

Each year around this time, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust celebrates the Bard's birthday with public events, such as live readings of his plays and other festivities.

This year's birthday also marks the start of the World Shakespeare Festival, a weeks-long celebration held at venues throughout Britain and organized by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The festival coincides with the London 2012 Festival, which is part of the Cultural Olympiad running in parallel with the summer Olympic Games.

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