14 Ways to Celebrate Shakespeare on His Birthday

uch Much like a literary Christmas, there’s a special feeling in the air as we come up on Shakespeare’s 400th death-day. Although we may not know much about the man, he’s such an important part of the literary and entertainment worlds. In fact, many of the words we use everyday (ex: bloodstained, blanket, lonely, mimic, assassination, swagger, torture) have been coined by him. That’s staggering. How many words have you invented? Exactly. Now it’s been 400 years since William Shakespeare left us, and 453 years since he was born, and it’s time to celebrate the life and legacy of this magnetic literary figure.

My plans are simple: I’m going to read my favorite Shakespeare play (King Lear), watch one of my favorite adaptations (Romeo + Juliet), and perhaps bake him a cake. It’s amazing to know that all over the world people will be taking time to remember him in both big and small ways, from festivals to parades. Are you having a hard time figuring out how to celebrate the birth/deathday of William Shakespeare? Fear not, for I have compiled a list of 14 ways in which you can celebrate. Some of the ways are extravagant, some of them are small, but all of them honor him. There are no ideas good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

1. Watch a movie of one of his plays.

You can't throw a rock into film history without hitting a Shakespeare play adaptation, so what better way to throw your own low-key celebration than by watching one? Whether you like it pretty straightforward (such as Kenneth Branaugh's rendition of Much Ado About Nothing, Julie Taymor's Titus or Justin Kurzel's recently released Macbeth ) or a fun re-imagining (such as Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, Branaugh's insane musical adaptation of Love Labours Lost or Baz Lurhman's Romeo + Juliet ). The possibilities are endless.

2. Watch one of his plays performed live.

It'll be a Saturday, so hopefully a local community theater has decided to celebrate the Bard by putting on a show. There's something completely awesome about seeing one of his plays be performed lives, and since Spring has finally started to bloom, wouldn't it be nice to watch an outdoor play?

3. Simply read one of his plays.

I for one will most likely be reading King Lear or the Scottish play. There's nothing better than taking in a play in the theater of the mind.

4. Build your own Globe Theater.

The best idea would be visiting the Globe Theater, but for those of us who can't make it due to time or distance, why not just build one? This little paper toy can definitely ignite the imagination.

5. Cook a Shakespeare themed meal.

To celebrate in his own abrasive-yet-oddly-sexy-way, Gordon Ramsey's Union Street Cafe is planning a Romeo and Juliet themed meal. While not all of us will probably be able to attend that very special meal, that doesn't mean we can't cook up our own Shakespeare inspired stuff. Look up some Elizabethan dishes for a touch of authenticity, or go the Romeo and Juliet route and whip up some Veronese delights. If anything, make the cocktail on the menu — that looks divine. Music may be the food of love, but let's be real, food is also the food of love.

6. Read a Shakespearean retelling.

One of my favorite things about Shakespeare is how much he has inspired, so why not read a book inspired by his works? Whether it's a comic retelling of a favorite comedy, or a Stoppard's awesome "spinoff" of Hamlet, you have a lot of possibilities here.

7. See how your knowledge stacks up.

It's always fun to test your knowledge, so why not take a couple of quizzes and see how much you really know about Shakespeare or his plays? There are several to choose from here, and hundreds more elsewhere. Play against your friends for a deliciously competitive competition.

8. Act out a scene.

Whether you have a group of friends to put on an entire play yourself or just want to act out you own soliloquy, this is a heck of a fun thing to do. Go as elaborate or as casual as you'd like, record it or don't, either way you'll be feeling the sheer power of the theater.

9. Throw a birthday party.

This one is pretty simple: throw a Shakespeare movie night, read-a-thon, food party, acting-a-thon, or all of the above! Have fun coming up with party decorations and party food, and let the hurly burly begin.

10. Attend the BBC virtual Shakespeare festival.

The BBC is holding an entirely virtual festival dedicated to Shakespeare. While you can find all the information here, some highlights you can look forward to David Tennent hosting Shakespeare Live! From the RSC, where he will be joined by Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch playing Richard III in The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses, and Russell T. Davies own interpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. There's a lot more, and it's all worth checking out this Saturday.

11. Visit Stratford-upon-Avon.

If you're already in England, why not head on over to the birthplace of William Shakespeare? Visit his grave, watch the parade, and take in the sites. It'll be amazing to walk where he walks, now won't it?

12. Go on a Shakespeare themed cruise.

Unfortunately this ship has almost already sailed (pun intended), but you can sleep at night tonight knowing that there exists a singles cruise dedicated to celebrating the life of Shakespeare. Is it a little morbid to sail to Elsinore (the setting of Hamlet) on a boat where the general idea is to meet singles like you, given the fact that Ophelia drowns in that play? It's only morbid if you make it morbid.

13. Read a sonnet.

Shakespeare was more than just a playwright; he also lovingly crafted a whole mess of amazing sonnets. One of the quickest ways to honor him is to read one of them; they're only 40 lines after all! Simply crack open a book of his sonnets, or hit up an open source database to pick and choose which ones you would like to read. You have a 145 to choose from, but my personal favorite is Sonnet 71, which explains that he loves his loved ones so much that he would father be forgotten by them at his death than to leave them vulnerable after he's gone. Oh how ironic that is, Will.

14. Write a sonnet.

Write some words, words, words! It might be a little bit ambitious to encourage you to write a classical play, but a sonnet shouldn't be too hard. Earn some extra points with your loved ones by writing them something special, or just keep it to yourself. The Bard would want you to get creative!

Images: Cover: vic xia/flickr, Twentieth Century Fox, vyncentvega, Joao Araujo, tracy ducasse, Yuichi Sakuraba, Tracy Lee, Bill Couch, Michael Levine-Clark,Jinx! Megan Rosenbloom/flickr