This month marks the 446th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, undoubtedly the most influential writer in English literature.  Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564.  His actual birthday is not known; it is usually celebrated on April 23rd.  Over four centuries after his death, the artistry with which Shakespeare employed language to write his 154 sonnets and 37 plays is still considered exceptional.  Shakespeare's command of English is even more remarkable when one considers that he had little formal education, and in his day there were no dictionaries or organized grammatical texts.  According to Louis Marder"Shakespeare was so facile in employing words that he was able to use over 7,000 of them—more than occur in the whole King James version of the Bible—only once and never again."  The Oxford English dictionary credits Shakespeare with the introduction of over 3,000 words into the language.   

Britain's Royal Shakespeare company, one of the best known theater companies in the world, strives to keep modern audiences in touch with Shakespeare, and has launched a project called "Such Tweet Sorrow", which will run for 5 weeks.  During this time, a Twitter user named @julietcap16 and other characters will play out a 21st century version of Romeo and Juliet via microblogging

There are other ways to pay tribute to the Bard as well.  Read a sonnet.  Read a sonnet translated into modern English.  Write a sonnet to your loved one or a pet.  Watch a movie (include one directed by Kenneth Banaugh).  Make your own miniature Globe theater.  Re-read a favorite play.  Prepare an Elizabethan feast.  Wear a mask.  Attend a local event.  Whatever thee do, make merry!  Because as the bard says, "the play's the thing".

image courtesy of Real Distan