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Shakespeare RIP 400

Beth Wilmurt, Cathleen Riddley, Nick Medina, El Beh, Kevin Clarke, David Sinaiko, and Megan Trout prepare to pick their roles for the night in
Beth Wilmurt, Cathleen Riddley, Nick Medina, El Beh, Kevin Clarke, David Sinaiko, and Megan Trout prepare to pick their roles for the night in “Hamlet” at Shotgun Players. (Photo by Pak Han)

The spring day in 1616 that English literature’s greatest writer expired was not widely marked at the time—not because he lacked renown in his own time but because, as the scholar C.C. Stopes has speculated, Shakespeare’s plays enjoyed as vibrant a life on the stage after his death as before it. It wasn’t until the passing in 1619 of Richard Burbage, the actor who had originated many of Shakespeare’s greatest roles, that a measure of proper grief had its belated outpouring.

Now, however, we don’t use Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52 as an occasion for mourning but as another pretext for celebrating his abundant, endlessly rejuvenating theatrical and poetic art. Even after 400 years, he remains the most-produced playwright in America and, as far as we know, the world. To take our part in the festivities, we here offer a wide sampling of stories about how the Bard’s work is still speaking through today’s artists, from San Francisco to Poland, Brooklyn to Melbourne. As much as anyone who ever lived, it may be thanks to Shakespeare that all the world is indeed a stage.

—Rob Weinert-Kendt

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