April 23: William Shakespeare?

ShakespeareWilliam Shakespeare, a playwright and actor who in the centuries after his death gained a reputation as perhaps the greatest writer and dramatist of all time might have been born on this day in 1564. Undoubtedly there will be eventful celebrations and excitement in his birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon.

I say “might” because Shakespeare’s actual birthday is unknown. We know he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and in the Elizabethan era baptism typically happened two or three days after the child’s birth leading some to suspect that he might have been born on April 23. Additionally, it is known that he died on April 23, 1616, so there is a certain poetry to the idea of Shakespeare entering and exiting the world on the same day. Thus, April 23 has become the traditional date for celebrating Shakespeare’s birth. Although, I’m sure there are pedants who would disagree with that.

Now there has been gossip and distasteful speculation amongst some critics that Shakespeare did not actually write the plays he is credited with composing. However, we shall not cater to these obscene improbable fictions that oft rely upon baseless speculation or at best circumstantial evidence.

How great was Shakespeare’s impact upon the English language? Well, he coined somewhere between a couple hundred and a couple thousand new-fangled words and phrases that are now common vernacular. Seriously, nearly every time we speak we are Shakespeare’s mimic. It’s simply unreal to think that we’d be tongue-tied without the words this one man either invented or made fashionable. Don’t believe me? Well, every italicized word or phrase in this post first appeared in one of Shakespeare’s poems or plays.

Let’s celebrate Shakespeare’s priceless contribution to the English language with a cocktail inspired by one of his plays. Viola’s Disguise was created by Cate Gibbs, a part-time bartender at Ashland, Oregon’s Winchester Inn in 2010 as part of a competition to create a Shakespearean cocktail to celebrate the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 75th anniversary. The Twelfth Night inspired Viola’s Disguise is a satisfying drink uses grapefruit juice and Cointreau to, in Gibbs’ words, “disguise” the vodka.

Viola’s Disguise

  • 2 ounces Vodka
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 2 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice and cherry on a pick.

Tomorrow: Cinema’s greatest showman.


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