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F the precise day of Shakespeare's birth there is no positive record; but
we may be quite sure that he was born in April, 1561. His christening is fortunately chronicled in the old Parish register, in the Church of the Holy Trinity, at Stratford-upon-Avon, wherein the baptism of
“William, the son of John Shakspere,” is entered under the date of the twenty-fifth of April, 1564. The general belief is, that the twenty-third was the Poet's birthday; and though not proved, yet it receives confirmation from the custom prevalent in Shakespeare's time, of christening children three days after their birth; added to this, there is a tradition that he died on the anniversary of his birthday, and the day of his death was certainly the twenty-third.
The April which gave to John Shakespeare his first-born son, and to England her poet, was truly one of tears. The plague, which had been making London desolate, was then raging everywhere, and fell like a blight upon Stratford-onAron, in six months reducing its population from 1428 to 1190 souls.
On the 30th of August, when the plague was at its height, the town council met in the open air, instead of in the council chamber. They twice raised money for the relief of the poor; and the name of John Shakespeare, the poet's father, appears on each occasion among the list of contributors.
Two years afterwards, the poet's brother Gilbert was born. When William was five years old, a sister was granted to him, and when he was ten, another brother was added to the family group. It is easy to imagine the old house animated by their cheerful childish voices.
In the meantime the eldest boy was led, like the little William of his own