It is debatable if Shakespeare was born on April 23 or not (scholars can only verify the date of his baptism) but it is known he died on April 23. Whichever anniversary you celebrate, spend sometime today with his work. Here are five outstanding choices.
Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber (Anchor). Based on her lectures at Yale and Harvard, Garber guides readers through the plays, providing immensely accessible context and interpretation.
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt (W. W. Norton). Greenblatt provides an outstanding, accessible, highly narrative, and fascinating explanation of Shakespeare’s life as well as a grand account of Elizabethan England.
The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition edited by Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard, and Katharine Eisaman Maus (W. W. Norton). This is one of the three best complete collections of the plays, offering useful and illuminating introductions and plenty of supporting materials.
Shakespeare the Thinker by A. D. Nuttall (Yale University Press). A brilliant biography focusing on how Shakespeare thought about the topics of his works (ethics and identity among them) and how he continued to address his concerns from play to play.
The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets by Helen Vendler (Belknap Press). Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets get their due in this luminous explication, which focuses on the language and meaning of the poems. The accompanying CD includes readings of 65 of the sonnets, allowing listeners to appreciate the impact of the form.