Shakespeare died four hundred years ago today in Stratford-upon-Avon.
He was buried two days later in Holy Trinity Church, where he had been baptised almost exactly 52 years earlier. Both his birthplace and the house in which he then lived were within easy walking distance of the church - in a beautiful location beside the River Avon. He is buried in the 15th-century chancel, with a slightly later monument on the wall looking down at his and his wife’s tombstones. A plaque compares him to Nestor, Virgil and Socrates. The first is today virtually unknown, the second is read by very few outside the universities, but Socrates is well-known. Shakespeare himself has one of the few names known everywhere in the world, as are those of some of his most famous characters. Hamlet above all.
I like to think of him as an actor, one of the greatest. To my mind, in the midst of thousands of books about his life and work, the most profound writing about Shakespeare was an "essay" two pages long by Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), the great Argentine author. He understood the importance of the actor in Shakespeare better than anyone, and understood how Shakespeare became Hamlet. Here are some lines from Borges’ ‘Everything and Nothing’:
The beautiful closing lines of Borges’ short piece are perfect: