The big 400

Today’s the big day. Shakespeare died 400 years ago this April 23. It’s sort of morbid, don’t you think, to celebrate his death-day?

Well, I’ve been criminally behind in writing up Titus Andronicus. Maybe it’s just so violent I’m at a loss for words? I’m also behind on starting my next play; I’ve chosen a biggie, King Lear.

But I’m behind for good reason – and not just moving overseas. I’m behind on my Shakespeare because of Shakespeare.

Since I have the fortune to be in Oxford this week, I’m heading into relatively nearby Stratford-upon-Avon today. A Stratford local warns me it’ll be a shit-show today. My train will be arriving after the parade (why not?), so perhaps things will have calmed down a bit by then. (Eh, it’s looking like a beautiful day outside, so…)

I have also booked seats for a lecture by Oxford University’s renowned Shakespeare scholar, Sir Jonathon Bate, at the famed Bodleian Libraries for Monday evening, as well as to see Michael Pennington in an acclaimed production of King Lear at the Oxford Playhouse  on Tuesday.

See, these are good reasons to behind. I’ll finally be encountering the Bard during my reading as he is meant to be encountered: on the stage.

Anyways, much to do – and write up. In the meantime, if you need a fix of the Bard today, catch up on some of my sweary takes on Shakespeare over at Strong Language. In honor of the big 4-0-0, I’ve posted on the fabulous profanities in Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2.


Author: John Kelly

I'm Managing Editor at, seeking to inspire a love of learning through the wonder of words in an ever-changing world. Discover more @mashedradish.

32 thoughts on “The big 400”

    1. I like that you’ve framed this. Yes, “homage”: that’s a perfect word. As I learned while touring landmarks in the city, many past artists (famously, Garrick) made what should even term a “pilgrimage.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is such a great blog! In hindsight, pouring over Shax’s works with a cup of tea back at Oxford definitely counts as one of my happiest memories. Perhaps you’re already aware, but Jonathan Bate seems to have aligned his approach with the ‘Ecocriticism’ school, so it’ll be interesting to see if this shows up in his Shax lecture that you’ll be attending.

    Looking forward to reading your upcoming posts!


    1. Thank you! Your memory sounds like a truly lovely one. Bates’ Monday lecture is simply called “The Magic of Shakespeare” (part of a larger series, interestingly, the libraries are calling Shakespeare’s Dead, focusing on more macabre metier, apparently), so I will indeed be intrigued to see how his approach may get inflected. Again, thanks for reading!


    1. Hence all the #Shakespeare400 hullabaloo on April 23. It’s traditional to celebrate his birth on the same day. We know he was baptized on April 26, so historians speculate he was born a few days before. You’re welcome! Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. I read Shakespeare’s complete works in an intense 2-month span back in 2003. I’m hoping to do it again in a few years (once I have no babies or toddlers in the house.)


      1. I took away more than can be quickly summarized, and not as much as I would get from it now (I was 19.) The easy stuff is that it made it a piece of cake to ace a Shakespeare course I took a few months later. And I had some weird language quirks for a bit afterwards. More significantly, there are lines and scenes which have stuck with me ever since. I have been able to catch and understand more references when I read other literature. And it makes it a lot more fun to see “Shakespeare in the Park” plays.

        Like I said, I want to do it again now that I have the benefit of some more life experience.


      2. Lovely! In college, I enjoyed re-reading plays that I read in high school. In teaching, I enjoyed re-reading plays I read in college. Now, I’m enjoying re-reading all the plays from the previous contexts, as I find I’m re-reading myself at those stages of my life, Shakespeare as the medium for self-reflection.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi again, John! Would you be interested in composing a short guest post on etymology, something to do with books or travel or pets or dance or libraries or public speaking for my blog?


  3. I wonder what the future of Shakespeare will be. He’s profoundly impacted lit. up to now, but will his influence last? You should write a blog about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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