Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare

Posted April 20, 2010 at 4:24pm

Though only murky historical records substantiate it, scholars believe that the prolific poet and playwright William Shakespeare was born this month in 1564. And as is custom, the Folger Shakespeare Library (201 East Capitol St. SE) will celebrate by hosting the annual Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House on Sunday.

This year he turns 446, so, as the Bard wrote, “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

The free day of family fun runs from noon to 4 p.m. with activities to please erudite literary scholars and fresh-faced Shakespeare novices alike.

The festival marks the only day of the year that the library’s reading rooms are open to the public. View Flemish tapestries from the 16th century, paintings from scenes of the Bard’s plays and the famed “Seven Ages of Man” stained glass window.

Enjoy Renaissance performances, song and dance, jugglers and jesters, stories of life in 16th-century England and Shakespeare lovers performing their own bit in “Spontaneous Shakespeare.”

The library will offer Shakespearean fortune telling, quill pen writing and lessons in how to make brooches, felt pendants, potpourri and garlands.

There will also be a Shakespeare portrait contest, a sonnet contest and a scavenger hunt.

And the Bard’s birthday wouldn’t be complete without the Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture, a tradition dating back to the 1932 address by Joseph Quincy Adams, the first director of the Folger and a descendant of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

This year, University of Warwick Professor Jonathan Bate will discuss the Epicurean tradition through “As You Like It,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “Measure for Measure” in a lecture titled “The Good Life in Shakespeare.”

The lecture will take place at 8 p.m. Monday.

So come out and let Shakespeare know he’s still got it. Tell him: “To me, fair friend, you never can be old, / For as you were when first your eye I eye’d, / Such seems your beauty still.”