By Gilmour, Peter
U.S. Catholic , Vol. 66, No. 4
April 23 is an extraordinarily charged holy day. The world's preeminent playwright and best psychologist burst his way onto the world's stage on this day back in 1564. William Shakespeare, born in the out-of-the-way English village Stratford-upon-Avon, went on to pen mighty plays and sonnets. Many a line from his works are easily mistaken for sacred scripture. His words have been known to find their way into preachers' sermons who, unbeknownst, proclaim them as Holy Writ. Add to Shakespeare's kudos: theologian!
Although he certainly had a flare for the dramatic, even this astounding personality could not have arranged his April 23 birth date to coincide with the Feast of Saint George, also celebrated this same day. Saint George, patron saint of Shakespeare's country of origin--England--is worthy of a Shakespearean play.
George's biography, as accurate as some of the history in Shakespeare's plays, places his birth in present-day Turkey and assigns a death date around 303 A.D. in Palestine. His occupation, perhaps a soldier in the Roman Army, took him traveling all the way to England. His claim to fame, slaying dragons, is the common thread that runs through the stories around his life and legacy.
In the Middle Ages, when plays were still performed in churches, the life of Saint George was a popular dramatic subject. Regretfully, the thespians were kicked out of sanctuaries long before Shakespeare made his dramatic debut. I've often wondered: Did a small but influential group of priests who preached lousy sermons eliminate their competition by banning these fascinating miracle, morality, and mystery plays from their precincts? Imagine the preachers' consternation if Shakespeare's plays had been performed in church. Even the best preacher would have met his match. …