Stage set for 400th anniversary celebration of Shakespeare's life and works By PRESS ASSOCIATION
Stage set for 400th anniversary celebration of Shakespeare
Shakespeare, who penned almost 40 plays, over 150 sonnets, and coined well-known phrases still widely used to this day, died on April 23 - in 1616.
The stage is set for Shakespeare's birthplace for a special 400th anniversary celebration of his life and works.
The picturesque streets of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire are to play host to a colourful birthday parade as tourists and fans from across the globe descend on the town on April 23. The legacy of William Shakespeare, who is buried in Stratford's Holy Trinity Church, will be brought to life by a host of actors, dancers and theatrical extras, including local schoolchildren and the public.
A centre-piece parade will be the focus of the day's events, beginning as a sombre walk of remembrance before ending on a more uplifting note assisted by the New Orleans jazz band.
Traditionally the morning parade is decorated with sprigs of rosemary "for remembrance", as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, and attended by the toll of a funerary bell.
Dignitaries will then lay a commemorative wreath to arguably the greatest playwright ever to wield a quill before a host of flags are unfurled in the centre of the town, signalling a change in mood. The parade will then continue through the streets on the final leg of its journey, ending near his grave at the historic church.
Stratford's mayor Tessa Bates said: "It's a birthday parade and the anniversary of his death parade, so it goes from the funeral, to a wake, to a birthday party. It ends on a really cheerful note."
Town clerk Sarah Summers, the Birthday Parade's lead organiser, said elements of audience participation were important to the day's festivities.
"We want the crowds lining the route to join in the ceremonial, throwing sprigs of fresh rosemary underfoot as the procession passes by in sombre mood in a walk of remembrance. Later, as the party starts, we are looking for a photographic moment to savour with our specially commissioned Shakespeare masks. We need everyone to join in."
During the day, outdoor players will perform iconic extracts from the playwright's vast array of works.
The day's festivities conclude with a fireworks display and a line of light, leading to Holy Trinity Church, where there will be a graveside vigil.