By permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
From A Booke of Christian Prayers (London, 1578)
by Richard Day.

Facts

Shakespeare was the third child of eight born to John and Mary Shakespeare, but he was their first son and their first child to survive past infancy. In the year of his birth, plague struck Stratford, although the Shakespeare household was spared.

The parish Register for Stratford records William's baptism on 26 April 1564 (here reproduced from a facsimile of the nineteenth century):


The entry is in Latin and reads, "Guiliamus filius Johannes Shakspere"; that is, "William son of John Shakspere."


Inferences

While the record indicates the date of Shakespeare's baptism, the actual date of his birth is unknown, although it is traditionally celebrated on April 23rd. Our knowledge of the custom of baptising children soon after birth makes April 23rd a likely date; however, it is also the day on which Shakespeare died in 1616, giving a pleasing, though possibly artificial, symmetry* to his life.

The first record of Shakespeare's life is of his baptism in Stratford Church, the same church in which he was later to be buried.

Close

Legends

April 23 is St. George's Day, and the association of Shakespeare's possible date of birth with the patron saint of England moves the appropriateness of this birthdate into the realm of the legendary.

Footnotes

  1. Symmetry?

    The first record of Shakespeare's life is of his baptism in Stratford Church, the same church in which he was later to be buried.