A Very English Day: An English Bard & A Not So English Saint

So the 23rd of April is a very English day, firstly it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday as well as being St Georges day.

 

Portrait of 449 year old William Shakespear Image not my own

Portrait of 449 year old William Shakespear Image not my own

Unlike the Redgrave clan, I do believe that there was a play write called William Shakespeare who was from Stratford Upon Avon who was a player in a company who worked in Southwark London in the theatres The Rose and The Globe. This man has got under my skin when I was 14 and we looked at Macbeth for SATs and then Romeo & Juliet for GCSE. As an adult I have been to the globe annually for the last decade I think it is fair to say I am one of his fan girls!

 

So in honour of his birthday I would like to share with you my favourite sonnet:

 

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

The Globe Image not my own

The Globe Image not my own

He is for me the person we should be most proud of he is what makes us English.

 

Unlike St George who is our patron Saint who’s day shares the date of Shakespeare’s Birthday. But in many ways St George is not in my eyes quintessentially English. St Georges day is celebrated in the following countries: England, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. The saint is also important in these cities Moscow in Russia, Genova in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta and Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca. Within the Orthodox Christian tradition the feat of St George is also celebrated on 10th November as well as the 23rd April. In the province of Newfoundland in Canada the Monday closest to 23rd April is taken as a public holiday (which is more than we do here!) Already St George seems more international Saint superstar than English.

Exterior of St Georges Chapel within Windsor Castle Image not my own

Exterior of St Georges Chapel within Windsor Castle Image not my own

He became our patron Saint during the 1222 Synod of Oxford. It seems that our Royals adopted the saint as Edward III used St Georges Banner for the Order of the Garter and the chapel of the order in WindsorCastle is named after the saint by Edward IV and Henry VII.

Shakespeare himself uses St George in a battle cry in Henry V before the scene about Agincourt.

“Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'”

So today celebrates these two figures one very English so much so he come from the midland of the country and the other an international saint who was made our saint in 1222. For me Shakespeare and his legacy holds a bigger place in my heart yet in a multi cultural society, a multi cultural saint may be more relevant to England today.

 

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