Today in History: April 23

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
    So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
    You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 55

Because he was baptized on April 26, and because of assumptions made by scholars about this fact in later centuries, and because he definitely died on April 23, a mere 52 years later, William Shakespeare’s birthday and his death day are celebrated today. He was possibly born 452 years ago today, and he died 400 years ago on this date.

One Shakespeare legend has it that on this date in 1597 his play “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was performed at a feast that celebrated his theatrical company’s patron being elected to the Order of the Garter, and that Queen Elizabeth I herself attended.

* * * *
Today is also the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, although some sources offer April 22 as the date.

* * * *
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, celebrates April 23 as the International Day of the Book, or World Book and Copyright Day, in part to honor the two great writers, Shakespeare and Cervantes, on the date that offers us the coincidence of their deaths.

* * * *
William Wordsworth also died on this date in 1850.

* * * *
The Reinheitsgebot, more commonly referred to in English as the German Beer Purity Law, was adopted in Bavaria 500 years ago today. It dictated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops, and that the use of other ingredients produced “impure” beer and that the penalty was confiscation. The law and its descendant provisions still are applicable in Germany, even though many exceptions have been added to the law, essentially watering it down. (I have several friends who brew their own beer, and though I no longer volunteer my services in the name of taste-testing, I remember that each has well-(in)formed opinions about the history of the Reinheitsgebot regulations.)

* * * *
In an article in the New York Journal dated April 23, 1900, this sentence appeared: “A Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires of his revolver as the fancy takes him.” It is the first popular appearance of the word “hillbilly.”

* * * *
Harold Arlen died 30 years ago today.

* * * *
Shirley Temple was born on this date in 1928. Roy Orbison would be 80 today. “You won’t be seeing rainbows anymore”:

The late Ray Tomlinson, who essentially invented email and our use of the “@” sign, was born 75 years ago today. (He died last month.) Sandra Dee would be 74. Hervé Villechaize would be 73. Jan Hooks would be 59.

* * * *
David Birney is 77. Lee Majors is 77. Blair Brown is 70 today. Joyce DeWitt is 67. Narada Michael Walden is 64. Michael Moore is 62. Judy Davis is 61. Valerie Bertinelli is 56. George Lopez is 55. John Hannah is 54. John Oliver is 39 today. Taio Cruz is 31.

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One comment

  1. wonderwall360blog · April 23, 2017

    Had not realised Wordsworth also died on this date. How is it defibate Shakespeare died on 23rd? I’m currently hosting a Shakespearan blog party so have read about uncertainty relating to date of death.


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