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Happy birthday to the Bard - how would Shakespeare celebrate?

By • West End

Today (23 April 2013) is William Shakespeare's 449th birthday. To mark the occasion, we've rounded up a selection of quotes from our greatest playwright on the issue of birthdays and ageing (see below).

Last weekend (20-21 April) saw the annual range of activities in Stratford-upon-Avon to mark the Bard's big day, including a grand parade featuring a plethora of Shakespearean costume.

But speaking to Whatsonstage.com at yesterday's launch of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Globe artistic Dominic Dromgoole said he felt Shakespeare would not necessarily appreciate the level of attention his birthdays generate these days.

"I think he's the sort of person who probably didn't admit it was his birthday - he'd be discreet about it," said Dromgoole. "You get the sense than Johnson and Marlowe would be more party-throwing, centre-of-attention types whereas Shakespeare would likely mutter something about it in a dark corner."

Based on reading Shakespeare on the subject of growing old, it's difficult to disagree with Dromgoole's assertion. The cross-section of quotations below reveals a man not entirely comfortable with the idea of aging.

That being said, if the words of Gratiano - "let my liver rather heat with wine / Than my heart cool with mortifying groans" are anything approximate to Shakespeare's own feelings, he'd likely have faced the grand old age of 449 with a boozy knees-up.

"If he were around today he'd likely just get drunk," concedes Dromgoole, "and count his royalties."

Othello opens to press at the National Theatre tonight (click here for our gallery of production pics), while The Tempest ushers in the Globe's 2013 Season of Plenty (see trailer below)

Shakespeare on age

"With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans."
(Gratiano, The Merchant of Venice)

"To me, fair friend, you never can be old. For as you were when first your eye I eyed. Such seems your beauty still."
(Sonnet 104)

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more."
(Macbeth, Macbeth)

"…one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages."
(Jaques, As You Like It)

"…when thou art old and rich
Thou hast neither heat, affection, limb, nor beauty,
To make thy riches pleasant."
(Duke Vincentio, Measure for Measure)

Beauty doth varnish age, as if new-born,
And gives the crutch the cradle's infancy.
(Berowne, Love's Labour's Lost)

O sir, you are old.
Nature in you stands on the very verge
Of his confine. You should be ruled and led
By some discretion that discerns your state
Better than you yourself.
(Regan, King Lear)

Sir, I am too old to learn.
Call not your stocks for me.
(Kent, King Lear)

A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
(Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing)

...To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life...
(Hamlet, Hamlet)


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