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How to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday

Activities and ideas for your Shakespeare celebration

a crowd of happy people watching a juggler

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.

A mom and her child having fun together reading lines from Shakespeare
Photo by Tracy Russo

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.

three people posing for a tableau vivant in front of the Folger's King Lear bas-relif
A coloring page

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.

How to write a sonnet

Woman reciting a sonnet
Photo by Lloyd Wolf

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.





Savory Cogs Biscuits. All photography by Brittany Diliberto.

Throw a party

girl smiling and wearing an Elizabethan ruff
  • 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.