Today in the Middle Ages: April 23, 1564

The most famous writer in the English language, William Shakespeare, was born on April 23, 1564.

Born a tradesman's son, Shakespeare became an artistically and financially successful playwright, actor, and manager, and his work eventually won the notice of Queen Elizabeth I. Although critics through the centuries have produced endlessly differing analyses of why Shakespeare was great, few have seriously questioned his place at the head of the literary canon. (George Bernard Shaw was one exception.)

Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon will honor the day with a brass band parade including local and foreign dignitaries and actors in period garb.