Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy (early) birthday, Shakespeare


I was wondering about April 23rd really being Shakespeare's birthday, given the shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. I found that addressed at bloggingtherenaissance.blogspot.com

In fact, we don't have a record of Shakespeare's birth, though we do have one of his christening on April 26, 1564. The assumption is that he was born 3 days before that.  However,  April 23rd of 1564 was a date based on the Julian calendar. What's the effect of the shift to the Gregorian calendar?

The Julian calendar was made up of 365 1/4 days a year. It defined the dates of Europe from the days of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE until 1582, adding up to ten extra days by that time.    Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar, subtracting those ten days with a massive leap forward. So that year the day after October 4th was designated October 15th.

England being England, though, and not considering itself subject to Catholic rule, adhered to the Julian calendar for nearly two more centuries. It only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752. By then an additon day was added on January 1, 1700. A day was also added 100 years later and 100 years after that. However, there was no additional day added in 2000.

According to the calculations of that blog, Shakespeare's April 23rd birthday actually translates into a May 3rd birthday in the Gregorian calendar.