As a Sigma Tau Delta member, scholar of literature, theatre-goer, or user-of-the-internet, you may have heard that 2016 was the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. The Bard left us on April 23, 1616, after penning 37 plays and hundreds of sonnets. Fans of the playwright and poet nicknamed 2016 the “quadricentennial”—or #Shakespeare400 on social media.
Shakespeare’s fans have celebrated this very special deathiversary in various ways. Theatre companies around the world showed reverence to the playwright by staging his works—one company even successfully staged all his plays within the year. The First Folio went on tour throughout the United States, thanks to the Folger Shakespeare Library. The Crown Publishing Group began releasing famous novelists’ retellings of the Bard’s works in the Hogarth Shakespeare project. At the Sigma Tau Delta 2016 International Convention in Minneapolis, MN, attendees were invited in the registration area to share their favorite lines from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets on an ever-growing whiteboard. And individual Sigma Tau Delta chapters have done their part to celebrate, too.
Celebrating the Quadricentennial
The College of New Jersey‘s Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter worked throughout the year to show Shakespeare some love. In early spring, the chapter supported the English Department’s “Romances and Tragedies” course by providing refreshments and advertising for a staged reading of Macbeth. On April 23 itself, they hosted a Death Day party. Scenes were performed, Shakespeare-themed prizes were bestowed, coloring pages featuring the Bard’s face were adorned, and cake with his portrait was served. Finally, as the quadricentennial neared its close, the chapter planned one final event.
Every December during final’s week, the Alpha Epsilon Alpha Chapter co-sponsors with TCNJ’s chapter of Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honor Society a Reader’s Theatre event. This event is a staged reading of a play, advertised to the whole campus as part of Finals Fest, a huge itinerary of events for students in need of a break from studying. Traditionally, the staged reading has featured Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but last year, the two organizations decided they were feeling a different type of festive, and used the event as one last hurrah for the Bard’s 400th deathiversary.
Reader’s Theatre does #Shakespeare400
Both honor society chapters presented a cutting of The Tempest, considered by many to be a farewell of Shakespeare’s own. The 1611 romance is believed to be Shakespeare’s final work written under his sole authorship. The character of Prospero is thought to be the aging-Shakespeare’s insertion of himself into the text, as the Duke-turned-exiled-magician makes peace with his life and casts away his book of spells (often read as a metaphor for Shakespeare’s career as a powerhouse playwright). The romantic themes of The Tempest and its late placement in Shakespeare’s canon made it the perfect play to present as a final farewell for the quadricentennial.
The reading featured 16 students from both Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Psi Omega, some familiar with the play, and others new to it. This meant that, often times, the comedic and more touching moments of the play genuinely were being experienced by the readers, making for a poignant performance. The audience was comprised of members of the honor societies as well as supportive friends, who aided the performance with their generous laughs and animated responses to the text. All attendees left with festive snacks in their bellies, uplifted spirits, and hopefully, a new resolve to face finals.
As we approach another April 23, what special events has your chapter hosted in celebration of the quadricentennial or the Bard’s deathiversary?