Today in History: April 20

Dr. Simon Forman was a doctor and astrologer in Shakespeare’s time who would be forgotten except he kept a diary about his day-to-day life in 1610 and 1611-era London. In it, he recounts seeing several of Shakespeare’s plays live in production at the Globe Theater. He describes seeing “Macbeth” on April 20, 1610 (or 1611; opinions differ), in what was one of the first-ever productions of “the Scottish play.”

He only devotes a couple paragraphs to describing the play (excerpted above), and he crams several acts into this (below the fold):

Simon Forman's diary

Simon Forman’s diary

Then was Macbeth crowned kings; and then he, for fear of Banquo, his old companion, that he should beget kings but be no king himself, he contrived the death of Banquo, and caused him to be murdered on his way as he rode. The next night, being at supper with his noble men whom he had to bid to a feast, to the which also Banquo should have come, he began to speak of noble Banquo, and to wish that he were there. And as he did thus, standing up to drink a carouse to him, the ghost of Banquo came and sat down in his chair behind him. And he, turning about to sit down again, saw the ghost of Banquo, which fronted him so, that he fell into a great passion of fear and fury, uttering many words about his murder, by which, when they hard that Banquo was murdered, they suspected Macbeth. Then MackDove fled to England to the kinges sonn, and soon they raised an army and cam to Scotland, and at Dunstonanse overthrue Macbeth. In the meantime, while MacDove was in England, Macbeth slew MackDove’s wife and children, and after in the battle MackDove slewe Macbeth. Observe also how Macbeth’s queen did rise in the night in her sleep, and walked and talked and confessed all, and the doctor noted her words.

“Macbeth” was an action movie for the old astrologer. Did Dr. Forman notice the theme of ambition, the theme of arrogance inside pointless ambition, or the violence that pointless ambition sometimes begets? Perhaps, but the revenge plot seems to have been the shiny bauble that caught his attention.

* * * *
Twelve high school students and one teacher were killed by two gunmen who then committed suicide inside Columbine High School on this date in 1999.

* * * *
On this date in 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused by a blowout killed 11 crewmen, started a fire that could not be extinguished, and ultimately sank the entire rig, leaving the undersea oil well to continue gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for several months in the worst oil spill in history.

* * * *
Today is April 20th. For those of you who enjoy things having to do with the simple fact that today is one more April 20 in a long line of April 20s that have been and will follow, please enjoy.

* * * *
Benny Hill died 24 years ago today. Cantinflas died 23 years ago today. Señor Wences died on this date in 1999, at the age of 103. Dorothy Height died six years ago today. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died two years ago today.

* * * *
Adolf Hitler was born on this date in 1889. Harold Lloyd was born on this date in 1893. Joan Miró was born on this date in 1893. Lionel Hampton was born in 1908 on this date. Tito Puente was born in 1923 on this date. The late Mother Angelica was born 93 years ago today. Edie Sedgwick was born on this date in 1943. Luther Vandross would be 65 today.

* * * *
Justice John Paul Stevens is 96 today. (He still maintains a schedule that shames mine, and I am literally half his age.) George Takei is 79. Ryan O’Neal is 75 today. Sir John Eliot Gardiner is 73. Andrew Tobias is 69. Jessica Lange is 67. Don Mattingly is 55 today. Andy Serkis is 52. Carmen Electra is 44.

Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.

Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  1. angloswiss · April 20, 2016

    Just wanted tp say I have become a faithful follower of your “Today in History” blogs. They are full of snippets of information reminding me of names from the past. I look forward to reading them every morning (with my breakfast). Thankyou for the invested time and work to post them daily.

    Liked by 2 people

Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.