William Shakespeare 23 April 1616

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 (baptized 26 April and therefore probably born 23 April) in Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, England. Stratford was fortunate in having an endowed grammar school, and since young Shakespeare was the son of the town bailiff, it can safely be assumed that he attended it, and there learned to read and write both English and Latin. When he was 18, he married a Stratford girl, Anne Hathaway, who bore him a son and two daughters. The son died aged eleven, but the two daughters married and survived their father. Shakespeare moved to London and by the time he was 20 was beginning to be known as a successful playwright. He achieved fame and prosperity as a member of London's leading theatrical company. He wrote a book of 154 Sonnets, two long narrative poems, and upwards of three dozen plays. In about 1611, he retired to his native Stratford, died 23 April 1616, and was buried in his parish church.

Some writers have argued that the works attributed to Shakespeare were really written by someone else and published under his name, with his consent. I am going to ignore their arguments here, since they are nothing to our present purpose. We have (1) the actor from Stratford, and (2) the writer. Today we commemorate the writer. If the two are not the same, then in commemorating the writer we have his name and most of the details of his life wrong, but that does not affect our response to his writings.

In his plays Shakespeare had some Christian things to say, and our understanding of the plays will be significantly impoverished if their Christian component is overlooked. This is not to say that the plays are really sermons with a thin sugar-coating of narrative. One reader has complained that I take a story rich in ambiguities and a multitude of meanings, and reduce it to a thin, bare moral tale. But I don't. I think that a good story typically has a wealth of meaning and will reward more than one approach. If someone wants the pleasure provided by a completely different interpretation, I do not try to discourage him. I say, "Why not have both?"

written by James Kiefer


Almighty God, who by your Holy Spirit have given varying gifts to your servants: We praise you for the gift that you gave to your servant William Shakespeare of proclaiming truths through poetry and drama, for our instruction and delight, and for your glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.