How to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday
Activities and ideas for your Shakespeare celebration
Join us in celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23. Choose from a variety of activities, whether it’s acting out a scene from a Shakespeare play, drawing a picture inspired by the Bard, cooking a festive Shakespearean meal, or other fun ideas for marking the occasion.
Speak the speech
Bring Shakespeare’s words to life. Try a line or a speech and read it aloud. Or, with your family or friends, turn a single speech into a group “choral” reading.
Read a favorite passage
Select a favorite passage from Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets, or try one that’s new to you.
Put on a scene
Look through the plays in The Folger Shakespeare and pick a scene. Remember that Shakespeare’s plays are almost always cut before production, so feel free to keep some lines and cut out others—perhaps many others—to make a scene that works for you.
Strike a pose
Recreate one of the Folger’s famous Shakespeare bas-reliefs by posing in a “tableau vivant”—or take a selfie as your favorite Shakespeare character.
Tableau vivant: A living picture
The nine bas-reliefs by the sculptor John Gregory on the front of the Folger building depict scenes from well-known Shakespeare plays. If you have two to six people available to pose, try bringing one of these bas-reliefs to life in a “tableau vivant,” literally a “living picture.”
Shakespeare character selfie
Take a picture of yourself as your favorite (or least favorite) Shakespeare character: Ophelia with a bouquet of herbs, Juliet at her window, Macbeth with a knife, or most classic of all, Hamlet with a skull… it’s up to your imagination.
Make a picture
Tip your hat to the Bard and his plays with works of art or your own visual whimsy.
Share your own paintings, drawings, cartoons, comics, still-life photos, dioramas, and more of scenes and characters from Shakespeare’s plays and poems.
Try out the Folger’s Color Our Collections, which includes printer-friendly coloring images based on the Folger collection—ranging from Shakespearean pictures to other images from Shakespeare’s time.
Write a sonnet
In keeping with a long-standing Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House tradition at the Folger, write your own 14-line sonnet.
Cook a meal
Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 with a menu inspired by the Folger’s collections and programs. Pick a recipe from each of the courses below to make a special Shakespearean dinner.
“Pears” in Broth
Faux pears, made from ground veal or pork, offer chefs an opportunity to show off their culinary sense of humor.
Before ‘Farm to Table’ fellow Michael Walkden has adapted this early modern recipe into the perfect passed hors-d’œuvre.
We aren’t sure what a “cog” is, but these biscuits are delightful served warm with butter.
Robert May’s Braised Brisket
Scholar Marissa Nicosia adapted this 1660 recipe for brisket braised in red wine for our 2017 exhibition First Chefs.
Roast Joint of Mutton
A line from Henry IV, Part 2 inspired actor and cook John Tufts to create this recipe for his cookbook, Fat Rascals.
Sweet Potato Pudding
Half a cup of dark sherry lends a unique flavor to this late 17th-century sweet potato pie. (Vegetarian.)
Vinegar and pepper make surprise appearances in these tarts adapted by food writer Francine Segan from a 1587 recipe book.
Seed Cake à la Thomas Tusser
A cake inspired by early modern agriculturalist Thomas Tusser is flavored with two ingredients frequently found in 17th-century sweets: rosewater and caraway seeds.
A clever baker can twist these cookies into knots or shape them into letters.
Pirate’s Hot Chocolate
William Hughes picked up this hot chocolate recipe while sailing the Caribbean aboard a privateering vessel.
Cocktails from Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim’s Shakespeare, Not Stirred:
A mojito inspired by Shakespeare’s lovesick teenagers.
Caliban’s Wrong Island Iced Tea
A tropical take on the Long Island Iced Tea.
Throw a party
- Create your own Shakespeare cake or Shakespeare cookies with shapes from the plays, like moons, stars, daggers, skulls, and books.
- Decorate the table with Shakespeare-inspired cards or place-holders.
- Have a ruff-themed Elizabethan costume party, using the Folger video on Making a Ruff from a piece of paper.
- Play your favorite board game or video game with a Shakespearean twist, from Shakespeare-themed player’s names to Elizabethan cards or pieces.