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Westerly Sun Column

April 7, 2014

By Nina Wright, Reference Librarian


April 23rd is William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday—or thereabouts, actually. There are no birth records for him but a church record in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon indicates a baby by that name was baptized on April 26, 1564. Although there are some significant gaps in information about his life, his writings have continued to be immensely popular over the past 450 years. He is considered Britain’s most famous playwright and poet.


Stratford-upon-Avon will be holding a huge celebration the week of Shakespeare’s birthday with thousands expected. There will be a large parade and all sorts of festivities. On a more intellectual note, the Société Française Shakespeare is organizing a week-long conference in Paris for the week of his birthday, which will include plenary lectures, roundtables, workshops, seminars, panels, and performances at various venues around the city. All over the world, activities will be taking place.


We are very lucky here in Westerly, because for the last 23 summers Wilcox Park has hosted the Colonial Theater’s always popular Shakespeare in the Park series. This summer, the play will be Twelfth Night, or What You Will. It begins on July 30th and will run Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. until August 17th.


Inside the library, we have many items that are either by William Shakespeare, or are about him. We have all of his plays, literary criticism about his works, and several biographies. We have some of his work in audiobook form, and there is even an audiobook for children, titled, not-so-creatively, “Shakespeare for Children”. We also offer numerous DVDs, both films that are fairly faithful renditions of his plays, as well as movies like “10 Things I Hate About You”, which is a modern interpretation of “The Taming of the Shrew”, set in a Seattle high school. I just discovered that the movie “The Lion King” is based on Hamlet! Did you realize that the film classic “West Side Story” is based on Romeo and Juliet? There are more movies like this than I realized.


It is amazing that someone who lived so long ago has produced a body of work that is still inspiring so many current performances. Whether you are a die-hard fan of Shakespeare or want to learn a bit more about his work, you are guaranteed to find something of interest to you here in Westerly Library. So stop in and you are sure to leave with something either by or about the Bard of Avon.