April 23 is the day observed as Shakespeare’s birthday throughout the world. Normally the occasion would be marked by live play performances, open-air celebrations, sonnet slams and Shakespeareaoke. Due to COVID-19, events have been postponed, or cancelled altogether, and others have moved online. So this year (or this month at least), celebrations of the bard’s birth will be more virtual and, sadly, solitary.
Fortunately during this time of quarantine, various individuals and institutions have been doing what they can to bring Shakespeare’s work and world into people’s homes. Since March 23, Sir Patrick Stewart has been giving live readings of Shakespeare sonnets every day on his Instagram account. The readings have been wildly popular: the first got over 464,000 views and 3,800 comments.
Now, poetry in and of itself wonderful, but as Hamlet said, “the play’s the thing,” and even if you can’t go the theater, you can watch as many Shakespeare dramas as you want online. The Globe Theatre (yes, that one) is streaming some of their performances for free on their YouTube channel—a differently play available 24/7 every two weeks. Find out more here.
And with your SPL card you can create a free account on our streaming video service Kanopy, where you can watch BBC productions of all of Shakespeare’s plays, take the course How to Read and Understand Shakespeare, and watch Shakespeare Behind Bars, a documentary about the inmates of a maximum-security prison staging a production of The Tempest.
And at the Digital Public Library of America you can find all of Shakespeare’s works, prose adaptations, commentaries on Shakespeare, and even speculations as to whether or not Shakespeare wrote the works published in his name.
Enjoy—or as Shakespeare said, “take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow.”